Bobcats end preseason strong

By Jamie Harkins

September 13, 2017 4:09 PM

Bobcats left wing Rob Raju moves the puck toward the Pontiacs net during the team’s final exhibition game at the Centennial Civic Centre on Friday. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO

Preseason play can only reveal so much, but one thing does seem crystal clear.
The Lloydminster Bobcats are going to be a hard team to play against in 2017-18.
The Bobcats trounced the Bonnyville Pontiacs 4-1 at the Centennial Civic Centre on Saturday in both club’s final AJHL preseason game.
The win gives the Bobcats a 4-2 exhibition record with regular season play set to start this Friday at the Civic, when the Black and Orange once again host the Pontiacs.
“Compared to last year, we have way more depth up front,” said Bobcats veteran centre Brady Barclay.
“We’re going to have a solid first three lines that are going to be able to put the puck in the net. Then on the back end we definitely have more solid D who are able to lock it down and not give up scoring opportunities.”
The Pontiacs started strong against the Bobcats before the home side found their groove about five minutes into the first period, by getting in first on pucks and hemming their opponents into their side of the rink for minutes at a time.
However, an innocent wrist shot by Carson Erhardt just over the Bobcats blue line gave the Pontiacs the lead with 1:07 remaining in the opening frame, as the puck eluded goalie Reece Klassen high glove side.
Lloydminster got the marker back 2:53 into the second period, when Reid Irwin deflected an Ian Dubourdieu pass from the half wall past Pontiacs goaltender Sandro Silvestre.
Rob Raju scored the Bobcats go-ahead marker just over seven minutes later off a nice feed from Barclay.
“It was a good pinch by Chase (Stephenson) on the wall, he separated the man from the puck, and I was able to pick it up and go on a two-on-one,” said Barclay.
“The D-man gave me no shot, so I sauced it over the stick to Raju and he tucked it upstairs in tight. It was a nice one.”
The Bobcats found themselves in a bit of trouble following the goal, with Irwin taking a four-minute double minor in the final minute of the second period, but his teammates bailed him out.
The penalty killing units shut down any Pontiacs attempt to sustain pressure in the offensive zone, while Klassen barred the door on all shots that did find their way through.
“That’s a penalty we can’t take,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Travis Clayton.
“It’s a learning thing, but we’re up 2-1 and take a four-minute penalty, so all of a sudden you could be down 3-2. We got to be disciplined and we can’t be taking those penalties, but the guys stepped up and helped their teammate out. That’s the sign of a good team.”
The kill shifted the momentum squarely onto the Bobcats side for the remainder of the game.
Rob Johnson, with a top of crease deflection of a Zach Webb pass at the 7:55 mark of the third period, and Andrew McCann, who lit the lamp on a similar play from Kobe Walker about five minutes later, proved the beneficiaries.
Clayton said the team has grown with each practice and game during the past three weeks, but there are still a lot of areas that need improvement.
He said they’ve only really worked on defensive coverage and forechecking, so this final week of the preseason will be a busy one as the team tries to get ready for the real thing this weekend.
“It’s going to be more physical,” said Barclay. “I’m excited and I think we’re going to take it to them all night and just try to cycle the puck around and expose their defence. It’s a big Friday night for the Cats.”

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