Things are a bit different since the last time the Lloydminster Bobcats played on home ice in front of their own fans. For starters, and the most notable, they are winning, which wasn’t the case back in September when the Bobcats dropped four in a row after opening the season with points in three straight games.
With a 4-2 victory over Okotoks on Friday night, the first home game since Sept. 21, Lloydminster has won five of their last six, which included
a four-game winning streak that was snapped in Fort McMurray last Wednesday. However, the Bobcats didn’t go back down the dark hole that is a losing skid, bouncing back against the Oilers with four goals, two from Kevin Darrar, to put them back on the winning side of things.
“We’re starting to gel as a team,” said captain Linden Springer. “It’s an exciting time of year when you can string a bunch of wins together.”
Times were not so rosy in the Bobcats locker room last month, as some, behind closed door words, were spoken to the team before they
took off for the AJHL Showcase weekend. Springer would not comment on what was actually said in the locker room after the fourth straight loss, but alluded that the message was simple, the Bobcats had to get back to work and pull up their socks if they wanted to win hockey games.
Since then the mentality has changed. It’s not just throwing your stick in the rack after another loss and say maybe next time. The team is working with a purpose to stay competitive and keep the record on the plus side so that the fans will continue to come to the games.
“It’s night and day effort from those four to the last six,” said Springer. “You just see it in different guys. Coming in everyone has a lot of skill, but I think everyone’s number one skill here now has to be working hard.”
Bryce Woodward opened the scoring Friday night midway through the first period, however, the Oilers would respond with a goal by Mitch Collett. Springer would give the Bobcats the lead heading back into the dressing room after 20 minutes with his fifth of the year.
Okotoks and Lloydminster would trade goals in the second, as Kevin Darrar would record his first AJHL goal of the season in the second period. But his night would not be complete until he potted a late third period goal on the power play, roofing a shot high on Riley Morris to give the ‘Cats a two-goal cushion with just seconds to play.
“It’s good to get back on a winning episode here after the one loss as opposed to the three or four,” said head coach Garry VanHereweghe. “It’s just a bunch of young guys who made a few too many mistakes and we are starting to eliminate some of those mistakes.”
The latest group of victories has tossed Lloydminster back in the top mix in the very competitive North Division. After Friday’s game, only five points separate the Bobcats from Spruce Grove who sit at the top. It’s also shown the Bobcats are capable of rebounding from some rather difficult times in the early going.
“As a group we needed to get better and it’s just gut check time,” said Springer. “We had to look in the mirror and you are starting to see the result now.”
The victory Friday night also snapped the Oilers own five-game winning streak. Lloydminster will return home on Wednesday for a meeting with Whitecourt before a quick trip to Sherwood Park on Saturday