It took just over a minute for the Lloydminster Bobcats to feel the effects of Thursday night’s trades. A lapse in defence, mixed with a missed poke check by the last remaining 20-year-old, left Nicolas Correale of the Spruce Grove Saints with a wide open night to slide the puck into.
It was the only goal of the period, but by the second 20 minutes, Spruce Grove would tally as many goals as the Bobcats had shots, as Tyler Busch scored twice and Cole Nicholson scored on the power play in the three goal second period. Patrick Geary would get the Bobcats on the board with a power play marker, his first of two on the night, as the import player added a late third period goal after the Saints had scored their fifth of the night.
A 5-2 final against the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s best team. Each period starting with a goal scored against in the opening two minutes. When team captain Linden Springer and leading scorer Lukas Biensch were traded, an adjust period was bound to happen.
Friday night was simply the wake up call that it needs to happen fast if Lloydminster wants to remain competitive.
“A team like Spruce Grove is a tough one to try and measure what is going to happen here right off the bat, but it’s also a pretty good wake up call that we have to be a heck of a lot better here than we were tonight, or we are not going to beat any of these teams,” said head coach Garry VanHereweghe after Friday’s loss.
“We didn’t play well at all. I thought we made a lot of mistakes, they out competed us in almost every end of the rink. We got to work as hard as they do. We got out thought tonight.”
Lloydminster came into Friday’s game in second place in the North Division, 16 points behind the Saints, who lead the AJHL overall. The Bobcats were also one point up on Fort McMurray for second spot before the weekend, so the mass movement in the lineup comes at a time when the Bobcats are still fighting for their spot in the division.
Between Springer and Biensch, the Bobcats lost two offensively gifted players who combined for 62 points while wearing orange, and Friday the lack of offensive punch showed, as the Bobcats got only three shots in each of the first two periods, and five in the third for a game total of 11. No where near enough to beat the best team in Alberta a good indicator of some of the holes that need to be filled by the veterans, and the opportunities to step up by some of the rookies.
“We have guys who can score, we are just not deep in that area,” said VanHereweghe. “Right now, there is some vacancies and some holes have been created, so guys need to figure out that we need to fill those holes. We you get guys like Springer and Biensch out, guys need to step up. It’s a great opportunity for some of the younger guys.”
The loss of Linden Springer also left a hole in the captaincy position. However, that hole was filled right away, as Taylor Mulder was made the new leader of the Bobcats. Mulder believes the Bobcats can still play with teams as good as Spruce Grove, and the Bobcats are no where near out of the running this season. But Friday night was a good reminder that a lot of change has happened, and holes need to be filled.
“It’s a wake up call for sure,” said Mulder. “They were all over us tonight. We know we can beat these guys and if we want to be in first place, we have to beat teams these guys and teams as good as these guys.
“I think we will still be able to compete in this league. I got full trust in the squad behind me that we will for sure be a competitive.”