The list of things to fix on the Lloydminster Bobcats is much longer than expected. Especially at the midway point of the regular season where the hockey club will be playing for a national championship.
On some nights it’s effort, on others it’s intelligence, a lack of defence, or the inability to capitalize on chances. The power play has been so dismal, that head coach Gord Thibodeau said the team should consider declining the man advantage and play five-on-five instead.
So while their record through the first 30 games, 24-5-1, and a constant place in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top 10 rankings is where they expected to be halfway through the season, effort-wise there is still plenty more to be desired, even after a 3-2 shootout victory over the top Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) team from Spruce Grove.
“If anyone watched the power play, tonight was a prime example of our defence showing you what not to do,” said Thibodeau after the frustrating victory over the Saints.
“Maybe we should just decline, that would be fine with me. If we play five-on-five we would probably have a better chance.”
It what was a fitting opponent to face for their 30th game, Spruce Grove will be the type of competition the Bobcats will face at the RBC Cup in May. A well-structured team that capitalizes on any mistakes and has more than enough firepower to out score any team, but also the defensive capability to play in a class game.
Last Wednesday, Lloydminster had a 2-0 lead after two and a half periods of play. Connor Odelein scored both Bobcats goals in the second period, and barely missed his hat-trick goal late in the game. The Saints, however, capitalized on mistakes.
Connor James scored when a shot deflected off netminder Alec Leclerc’s glove and into the net to cut the lead to one. Logan Ganie, who was called up by the Saints from the midget AAA Bobcats, scored on a wrist shot high on Leclerc, but a delayed penalty sent him to the box for two minutes.
Two minutes later, in a nearly the exact same location near the faceoff dot on Leclerc’s right side, Ganie got another chance and roofed the puck with a minute left to send the game into extra minutes.
Overtime solved nothing, and after a Zac Giroux goal in the shootout Kris Spriggs went to his backhand and scored for the eventual game winner, while Leclerc made the final save to secure the victory.
Still two points for the Bobcats, but they gave the Saints one as well. Late penalties while on the power play with under two minutes remaining and bad clearing decisions ultimately cost Lloydminster a clean victory. And perhaps more importantly, showed the team isn’t quite ready just yet.
“We haven’t played enough hockey, we’re not sharp and you saw it tonight,” said Thibodeau. “Pucks bouncing, couldn’t make a pass on the power play to save our lives. We need to get on the road and play some hockey. Hopefully we can get back to a little crispness and a little attention to detail that we are missing.”
Unfortunately, Lloydminster allowed five goals in back-to-back games against the Whitecourt Wolverines in two losses, their third loss in four games in December. Despite scoring first on Friday night in the first two minutes of the game, the Bobcats surrenders two goals in the first and three in the second period, en route to a 5-1 loss. The following night, Whitecourt won 5-3, handing the Bobcats, making it only the second this season they have lost back-to-back games.
The road swing for Lloydminster continues as they head to Sherwood Park on Wednesday night before finishing off the 2015 portion of the schedule with three games in three nights, playing Olds on Friday, Canmore on Saturday and the Calgary Mustangs on Sunday.