Bobcats right wing Kobe Walker reaches for a loose puck in front of the Kodiaks goal. JAMIE HARKINS LSS PHOTO
An extended period playing shorthanded may have caught up to the Lloydminster Bobcats, but the team refuses to use that as an excuse.
Four regular forwards once again watched from the stands as the Bobcats (22-30-3) suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to the Camrose Kodiaks (22-21-12) at the Centennial Civic Centre on Monday afternoon.
So, the club essentially rotated three forward lines during their third defeat in four days, resulting in a team that looked tired at the drop of the puck.
“It’s a pretty winnable game for us,” said Bobcats assistant captain Daniel Hilsendager, who tallied one primary and two secondary assists against the Kodiaks.
“We showed spurts about what we can do, but again we fell short. We definitely didn’t play our best today. We’ve been on a drought since we clinched playoffs. I feel guys have been letting off.”
Hilsendager said they have to pick it up again and start playing with some urgency as the playoffs approach.
He noted that starts with working hard in practice.
“It’s more mental than I think anything,” he said. “At the end of the season everyone is kind of tired, but that can’t be an excuse. Everyone else has played the same amount of games as us. We’ve got to come and put in the work.”
The Kodiaks pushed the play from the opening faceoff to earn zone time in the Bobcats end, as well as three of the first four draws to the side of Bailey Brkin’s net. The club won races to pucks on dump-ins and set up lengthy attacks on the Bobcats’ side of the rink, while also stopping their opponent from advancing the puck through the neutral zone.
The shots were 10-5 in favour of the Kodiaks after the first 20 minutes, but the score remained tied at zero.
The shot clock total actually paints a rosy picture for the home side, as a majority of the Kodiaks attempts either went wide or hit traffic in front, while three of the Bobcats five shots came late in the frame and from the outside.
“The big thing is we kept our feet moving, kept the puck moving, and then generating opportunities throughout that pressure,” said Kodiaks coach Nigel Dube. “We found the lanes and moved the puck through there and found the seams to get pucks through to the net. That’s things we’ve been working on as of late and we executed today.”
Travis Clayton, head coach and general manager of the Bobcats, said the boys are accountable for their play, so there wasn’t much that had to be discussed in the room during the first intermission. He said they responded and picked it up in the second period.
A Brkin mix-up playing the puck behind the Bobcats net led to the opening marker by Kyler Kupka 4:27 into the middle frame.
Hilsendager found Zach Kaiser down low for the reply about 40 seconds later as the Bobcats sniper skated the puck to the bottom of the circle and fired it low short side on Kodiaks goalie Griffin Bowerman.
Tucker Scantlebury made it 2-1 Bobcats with 6:19 remaining in the period on a move out front from behind the net where he backhanded the puck into the goal through traffic.
Ryan Hartman got the marker back 40 seconds into the third on a deflection as his team enjoyed a fresh-ice power play.
A Shawn Harke one-timer from the hashmarks while shorthanded coupled with another Hartman man-advantage goal then got the game into the extra frame.
Kupka notched his second of the game 1:03 into overtime on a snap from near the top of the circle that beat Brkin low stick side.
The Bobcats currently sit in sixth place in the Viterra AJHL North Division.
Three of their final five regular-season games will come against the fourth-place Grande Prairie Storm (25-26-3), while the remaining two have them facing the fifth-place Sherwood Park Crusaders (24-29-2).
Clayton noted everyone on their team knows what’s at stake. He said the opportunity to move up into fifth or fourth place is in their hands, so it’s now up to the guys to take care of business.
“Every game from now on is pretty much like playing a playoff game,” said Hilsendager.
“We just got to start putting it together again.”