Game 1 was in hand, until it slipped away. At no point did the Lloydminster Bobcats trail to the Whitecourt Wolverines in the 67 minutes of hockey played in Game 1, however, today they trail in the series after squandering a two-goal lead. It was only the first game of what could be just as long of a series as last year’s five-game thriller, but Lloydminster wanted this one done quickly. They didn’t want to be in Whitecourt twice, trying to win to stay alive. Now the Wolverines have a chance to win the series at home. They only need two more wins.
After a split of goals in the first period, where the Bobcats were outshot 10-4, Lloydminster seemed to settle in. The second period ramped up the scoring chances, the shots were there and the defence began to limit the pressure on goalie Devin Green. It was exactly what the Bobcats need to do to win. Just play consistent hockey, weather any storm, and just wait for their opportunity. Whitecourt gave up the second most goals in the AJHL North Division, so it would be only a matter of time until pucks started going in.
Shane Switzer got it started in the third, putting the Bobcats back in front, and Taylor Lotoski put them up by two after just six minutes in the third. More importantly, Lloydminster didn’t allow a shot on net. The shot clock still read 15 for Whitecourt, the same number that carried over from the second period. They were scoring, playing defence, limiting chances and capitalizing on their own. A 3-1 lead with 14 minutes to play seemed safe. In playoffs, thought, safe is a terrible word.
Trace Elson’s slap shot beat Green on the first shot of the period for the Wolverines. A two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. A one-goal lead means you play desperate for the rest of the game. It also means your mistakes could be costly. Bryce Woodward had a chance to shoot in the open high-slot. He looked for a pass. John Mullally made it a costly decision, as he came from his own end after the pass was intercepted and put a shot low on Green, tying the game at 3-3 with just over two minutes remaining.
And bad luck carried over into overtime, as Justin Young got some puck-luck off a skate to steal Game 1. And that is what it was, a stolen game, on Lloydminster’s home ice. Not the start to the playoffs you want to have.
Now Lloydminster has to find a way to put Game 1 in the past on very short notice. They still haven’t trailed in the series for any amount of seconds. But it is the continued problem of not playing a complete 60 minutes of hockey that has left them trailing in the series. You don’t give up a two-goal lead on just six shots in 12 minutes without feeling comfortable with your position. It was a costly mistake, but how costly will only be determined with the response in Game 2.