Bobcats ready for challenge

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September 15, 2016 12:00 AM

SEASON OPENER The Lloydminster Bobcats will open the season on Friday in Bonnyville before welcoming the Bonnyville Pontiacs to the Civic Centre on Saturday for the home opener with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop. ANDREW BRETHAUER LLS PHOTO

There may be a few hiccups at the beginning, but Travis Clayton doesn’t see the rebuild of the Lloydminster Bobcats taking a long time.
The new head coach of the Bobcats, who came on as an assistant coach in June, only to be promoted to head coach and general manager within weeks after former head coach Gord Thibodeau left the team for Whitecourt, has spent the off-season learning the fundamentals of being a coach and general manager in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) on the fly, while also recruiting plenty of young talent to fill the roster spots left by the 24 players who left for other teams.
It’s a totally new team and a new feeling, with local talent from Clayton’s former Lloydminster Bobcats midget AAA team being front and centre.
But there is still going to be some growing pains, especially considering that many of the players have never played a game at the junior A level, while a few others got some call ups in their midget season for a quick stint.
“We’re going to have some ups and downs, we are,” said Clayton. “We’re young, we’re going to make some mistakes early. Hopefully by November, December we are not making those mistakes and we are playing like 19- and 20-year olds. We’re very skilled up front, we got some good puck moving defencemen, we’re very solid in net with Austin (McGrath) and Jeremey (Kelleway). You can only go as far as you can if you don’t have the goaltending and I think we do with those two. They’ll have to carry us some nights.”
Experience aside, Clayton and the Bobcats won’t accept losing. It’s not going to be part of the teams philosophy moving forward, as they will head into the next 60 regular season games looking for two points.
They are expecting some tough nights, but with the talent Clayton said the Bobcats have, along with the determination of the group, they will at least be in the battle against the top teams in the AJHL.
“We don’t accept losing,” said Clayton. “If we’re young, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to have some tough nights, but we’re going out there to win every night and put a good show on.”
If anything, Lloydminster will be a team built on work ethic, something Clayton has been known for since he started coaching in the Border City.
He holds his players accountable and makes sure every player buys into their role on the team.
Already other coaches around the league have said the Bobcats, despite being young, are a hard working team that are tough to play against.
And even if Lloydminster doesn’t come away with the majority of the victories this season, they are going to make sure they are making other teams earn the two points.
“We’re going to have to play like that every night,” said Clayton. “If we don’t work hard, we’re going to be in trouble. (Bonnyville) is going to be a challenge. They are a veteran hockey team and we’re going to have our work cut out going up to Bonnyville.
“If it’s simple, mistake free hockey, then we’ll be fine. It’s going to be a challenge for the boys. The home opener is going to be exciting, we can build off the energy of the crowd. It’s going to be a fun week for these boys.”

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