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Sixty minutes just not enough

By February 9, 2022February 13th, 2022No Comments
Lloydminster Bobcats goaltender Kolby Thornton keeps his eyes on the prize on Monday night against the Drayton Valley Thunder. The ‘Cats beat the Thunder 3-2 in a shootout. Taylor Weaver Meridian Source

 

Monday night at the Centennial Civic Centre was host to perhaps, above all else, a playoff preview. 

Weekend success by the Bobcats pushed them up the standings into the fifth spot, while also clinching a playoff birth for the club for the first time in head coach and general manager, Nigel Dube’s, tenure. Beyond that, it’s the first time Lloydminster will enjoy playoff games since 2018. 

The visiting Drayton Valley Thunder sit fourth in division standings, meaning if playoffs started tomorrow, they would host the Bobcats in round one. 

The Thunder travelled east to Lloydminster on a two-game losing skid. The home side settled in having won their last three.

The game got off to a quick start. Just 1:51 into the game, Hassan Akl created a neutral zone turnover and raced into the offensive zone. He and Jordan Borysiuk would play pass in front of Drayton Valley netminder Byron Fancy before Akl would finish the play with a left-side tap-in. 

The two sides would trade goals over the next six minutes, leaving the score at 2-2 at the first media timeout with Fancy having been chased from the goal. The game would tighten up, and while fundamentally sound, would see no change to the score until overtime.

Three minutes and 20 seconds into the extra frame the Thunder would get caught with too many men on the ice, giving the home side a golden opportunity. With the extra attacker, the Bobcats took full advantage and owned the puck. 

With the powerplay came a series of passes around the top of the zone and shuffled the defense, creating an opening for Ethan Aucoin on the right side in the faceoff circle. Ben Bygrove fed the pass and Aucoin wasted no time letting go of the one-timer. 

Drayton Valley netminder Jackson Berry, who had been perfect to that point, caught a piece of the shot, but not nearly enough and the ‘Cats would claim victory.

Dube was naturally pleased with the result.

“I thought we came out with a lot of fire,” he said. “From a fan’s perspective, it was probably a really exciting seven minutes of the game. We kept to it after that as they are always hard-played games against Drayton Valley.”

Aucoin’s goal to end things Monday night was the 30th of his rookie campaign. Not a small feat. One which interestingly enough hasn’t happened since Zach Kaiser did it in the 2017/18 season – the last time the ‘Cats saw the playoffs. 

Dube was asked about the accomplishment and the player achieving it and said, “He plays with a lot of energy and excitement and likes to shoot the puck. He leads our team in shot attempts as well and he continues to be a driving offensive force.”

 

Members of the ‘Cats celebrate the team’s first goal of the night, which came at the hands of Hassan Akl. Taylor Weaver Meridian Source

 

One big change for the ‘Cats in this game was discipline. The line to the penalty box has been longer than desired by Dube, assistant coach and assistant GM Carter Duffin and assistant coach Kris Wiebe. 

The penalty kill has been better as of late, however, giving extra attacker opportunities is not a great recipe for success.

“We chatted about discipline since the Whitecourt games and being aware of what kind of penalties we were taking, it was another night in the right direction,” said Dube on the change for the team.

Things don’t get any easier in the near future. Friday the Bobcats will head to Whitecourt to face the Wolverines before returning home Saturday and Sunday to play Brooks and Okotoks. 

“As we’ve talked, it’s another big one,” said Dube on the weekend ahead. “We need to be ready to go from the start and know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to earn every inch.” 

On Friday the Cats will have familiar faces having seen the Wolverines four times in recent weeks. 

On Saturday, Brooks will be a significant test – as one would expect when you face the top Jr A team in the country. 

When the two teams last squared off on Nov. 20, the Bobcats played what was one of their best games of the season to that point, but fell 5-2. 

The Civic Centre’s atmosphere over the last couple of months has been electric, the Bobcats will look to feed off that energy and reverse their fate against the Bandits. 

On Sunday the ‘Cats will provide a Super Bowl warm-up against the Oilers. When they last played Okotoks on Oct. 22, the ‘Cats came out on top at the Pason Centennial arena 4-3 in a game that required extra time.