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Optimism and high expectations set stage for ‘Cats

By September 7, 2022No Comments
The Lloydminster Junior A Bobcats hosted the Bonnyville Pontiacs at the Centennial Civic Centre for pre-season action on Saturday night before travelling to Bonnyville for a Tuesday-night game. The Pontiacs may have beat the ‘Cats 6-1 on Saturday, but the local boys clawed back for an OT win on Tuesday on the road. Taylor Weaver Meridian Source

 

After a short and hot summer, the Lloydminster Junior A Bobcats are back on the ice for pre-season action and currently hold a 2-2 record in the AJHL north division.

The Bobcats’ pre-season started on Sept. 1 at the Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove for the AJHL’s pre-season tournament. The ‘Cats would lose 4-3 to the Kodiaks from Camrose on Thursday before taking a big 7-4 win over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Friday.

The Bobcats then hosted the Bonnyville Pontiacs on Sept. 3 and suffered a tough 6-1 loss at home. That loss, however, was quickly forgotten, as the ‘Cats travelled to Bonnyville on Tuesday night and took a 3-2 win in OT.

For Bobcats head coach and general manager, Nigel Dube, getting back to doing what he loves couldn’t have come any sooner.

“It’s good to be back and get things going here and go through the paces of pre-season,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. 

“We’re excited about the regular season, but we’re also excited to get some of our prospects into games here. Some of these guys are 16 years old and might not be with us this year, but will be back with us next year and throughout this season as affiliate players. Many factors go into pre-season games, but at the same time, we’re now focused on Sept. 16 for our home opener against Whitecourt and get the regular season started up.”

The Bobcats recently held its annual main camp with players coming in from near and far. After the three days of on and off-ice training, Dube said he’s liking what he’s seeing so far.

“First and foremost, it’s a great group of kids; they’re great humans, but they’re also some great hockey players that are looking forward to an exciting season. The season kicked off with a camp with high compete, both on and off the ice, and the fitness testing as well,” he said. 

“It’s going to be a nice mix of players from last year and those common faces and names, as well as new prospects and new players that have been acquired throughout the offseason. I think it’ll be an exciting team to watch.”

For Dube, since being brought on as head coach and GM, the buzzword around the Bobcats organization has been “rebuild.”

Last season saw the Bobcats make it to playoff action for the first time in years before being eliminated by the Drayton Valley Thunder in the first round.

“I think everybody’s got a sour taste on how the season ended last year, and for us as an organization, we’re looking to take the next step,” said Dube. 

“It’s been a journey here during the rebuild, and when you think back to close to four years ago compared to where we are now, we just want to continue on the group we have and get more and more competitive every game we’re out there.”

With that bad taste left in the mouths of last year’s players, Dube is optimistic for the upcoming season and is looking forward to seeing what this year’s team is capable of.

“Optimism and high expectations, everything you’ve ever wanted as a coach and as a player, and as an organization, and now it’s just our job to go out and meet those, and build on those every day and work from that.”

So, where would Dube like to see his team come Christmas time?

“We just have to be competitive. The north division is just so hard,” he said. 

“There’s no easy game, and for us, we need to take that step, and our actions throughout the first half are going to dictate where we are in the standings and it’s up to our group and our players to sort that out.”