Bobcats centre Zach Kaiser attempts to stop Oil Barons defenceman Ryan Conroy from moving the puck out of his zone. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO
The Lloydminster Bobcats came up just short of a perfect stand at the Centennial Civic Centre.
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons (29-6-3) withstood a hard-charging attack by the Bobcats (15-23-2) to post a 5-3 win at the Civic on Saturday night. The victory stopped the Bobcats winning streak at four games, while also giving the Oil Barons a bit of revenge for a 4-3 overtime loss at the Border City rink in late November.
“They’re a tough team to play against,” said Oil Barons forward Reed Morison. “We knew coming in we couldn’t take them lightly. They beat us last time in their own building, so it was definitely in the back of our minds that we owed them one.”
Oil Barons left wing Connor Lyons got his team off to a quick start by potting a wraparound under Bobcats netminder Pierce Diamond’s pad 2:07 into the game. Morison made it 2-0 with 1:46 left in the first period, which was followed by a Merritt Oszytko goal about a minute-and-a-half later.
“For two minutes of the first period at the end we stopped thinking, made some mistakes and it cost us,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Travis Clayton.
“We were down 3-0. We could have folded our tent up. That’s a good hockey team, but we have so much character in (our) locker room that we battled back.”
Bobcats centre Braydon Jenkins helped reduce the deficit to two early in the second period while on the man advantage by carrying the puck from behind the goal to the front of the crease where Zach Kaiser swatted it in on a scramble.
Kaiser notched his second power play marker during the dying seconds of the middle frame on a one-timer off a Tucker Scantlebury feed that rattled past Oil Barons goalie Eric Szudor.
Morison got the lead back to two goals 5:56 into the third period. The Oil Barons second-leading scorer broke through a couple of Bobcats defencemen on the play before firing the puck five-hole on Diamond.
“Our D men got the puck up quick,” said Morison. “I saw they weren’t coming up to the blue line to challenge me, so I decided to wheel it and just got free.”
The Bobcats kept up the fight after the goal resulting in a Scantlebury marker off a slap shot from the top of the circle with just under five minutes to play. The black and orange then laid on the pressure for the tying goal only to come up a bit short.
“We’re 4-1 on this home stand, that’s exactly what we wanted to do and now we’ve got to take this on the road,” said Clayton, whose club heads out for a back-to-back against the Whitecourt Wolverines (24-10-5) and Drayton Valley Thunder (9-30-1) on Jan. 9 and 10.
“It’s going to be a huge test for us, but I like the character in our locker room. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”