Bobcats search for answers

By Jamie Harkins

March 1, 2018 12:11 PM

  Bobcats forwards Kobe Walker and Connor Odelein prepare to pounce on a loose puck in front of the Storm net. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO

The Lloydminster Bobcats are 0-5 since locking down an AJHL playoff spot with a win against the Whitecourt Wolverines last month.
The Bobcats (22-32-3) latest defeat came in a 5-2 loss against the Grande Prairie Storm (27-27-3) at the Centennial Civic Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The home side kept pace with the Storm through the opening 40 minutes only to lose focus in the third period.
“I don’t know why,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Travis Clayton. “I think frustration, fatigue and again, we’re shorthanded. I don’t like using that as an excuse because it’s not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 10 guys or a full lineup. You got to do the little things right, and right now we’re not doing the little things right. It is costing us.”
The Bobcats entered the third down 2-1 to the Storm despite out-shooting the visitors 20-15. Thanks to five Storm penalties, including four straight to end the period, the Bobcats also held the momentum.
That grip loosened 4:41 into the final frame when Storm forward Dallas Comeau fired a shot from along the goal line on Bobcats netminder Bailey Brkin before popping his own rebound into the cage.
Edouard Michaud made it 4-1 about three minutes later when he wired a shot from the top of the circle short side on a Storm man advantage.
Bobcats defenceman Evan Wood notched his first of the season on a slap slot from the point off a rush at the 9:29 mark of the period, only to witness Storm leading scorer Justin Bernier restore the three-goal lead less than a minute later. The game descended into tit-for-tat penalties from there with neither side generating any real scoring chances.
Kobe Walker, who picked up the primary assist on Zach Kaiser’s power-play goal midway through the second period, said everyone is frustrated with how the past five games have played out. He said they need to get back to their winning ways, and that involves everyone doing their job and playing together as a unit.
The Bobcats started the game that way, pressing the Storm into their own zone through the opening minutes by winning races and battling deep for the puck.
Storm defenceman Jared Power managed to sneak one through traffic from the point for the opening goal about 12 minutes into the frame, but that didn’t seem to stop the home side’s attack.
A Comeau marker to give the Storm a 2-0 lead late in the first period also failed to deter the Bobcats.
Walker notched the best chance to get the team back into the game with 2:30 left in the stanza when the speedy right wing slid the puck through the crease on a wraparound attempt.
The opportunities continued in the second period, but a bit of puck luck worked against the Bobcats.
Daniel Hilsendager and Walker combined on an ill-fated two-on-one 13 minutes into the frame, while the latter notched another great chance late, only to whiff on a loose puck at the side of the Storm net.
Walker said they have to bear down and bury their scoring opportunities. He noted it’s going to come, but they need it to start quick with the playoffs set to begin next week.
“It’s always good to be on a winning note starting playoffs,” said Walker.
“We’ve got these guys two more times (on the road Saturday and Sunday) and we know it’s going to be hard fought games. We don’t like these guys and we’re going to try to give it to them in their own barn.”

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