With five points in their last three games, the Lloydminster Bobcats have snapped out of their latest funk that saw the team lose five of their previous six. Two victories over Drayton Valley and a shootout loss to Spruce Grove have put Lloydminster back into second place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s North Division. However, those points didn’t come without their set of problems.
Against Drayton Valley on Thursday, the Bobcats blew a two-goal lead just two minutes into the third period. On Saturday, it was much of the same, as Lloydminster held a 4-1 lead five minutes into the second period, only for the game to be tied just past the opening minute of the third. Four straight Bobcats’ goals would give Lloydminster the 8-4 victory, but it was the second straight game where the Bobcats let a lead collapse.
On Sunday afternoon, two Spruce Grove Saints goals in the first period made the Bobcats play from behind. They outscored the Saints 2-1 in the second before Linden Springer tied it in the third, sending it into an eventual shootout where the Saints Colton Leiter would score the lone goal for the victory.
Five points in three games may be a blessing for a team that struggled over the last month, but it still underlines the issues hampering the Lloydminster Bobcats. They aren’t playing a full game of hockey.
“It shouldn’t take us 40 minutes to wake up,” said Bobcats captain Linden Springer. “I don’t know what the deal is, or what we need to do to change it, but it is something that needs to change if we want to be successful going forward.”
As of late, whomever scores first, usually comes away with two points at the end of game. In the Bobcats last 10 games, the team that won scored first nine out of 10 times. It’s not concerning when the Bobcats are scoring first, but they went on a streak of six games without being the first goal, and sport a 4-4-2 record over that span.
Playing desperate hockey has been a message head coach Garry VanHereweghe has tried to convey over the last couple of weeks. In the third period, the Bobcats seem to be unbeatable, but it doesn’t fair well when the majority of the time the team is having to come from behind to steal a victory, rather than protecting a lead.
“It’s just being ready to play and not allowing that other team to get a little bit of momentum right off the bat,” said VanHereweghe. “And that is a mental thing more than anything else. Physically, we seem to adjust as the game goes on, but when you give good teams a lead like that, it is hard to come back.”
“Everyone can agree our third period is our best period, but we got to stop relying on our third periods to win us games,” said Springer. “Just when you dig yourself a hole against a team of this calibre (Spruce Grove) you can’t expect to come back and win every time.”
Since making deals that sent then team leading scorer, Tyler Kunz, to the Prince Georgoe (BCHL) and Eric Therrien to Drayton Valley, Lloydminster has been 2-1-1. They have scored three or more goals in each of those games, and are still playing competitive hockey. New additions Taylor Allan and Allan MacPherson each got their first point of the season, with Allan scoring and MacPherson getting an assist in the 8-4 victory over Drayton.
While the sting of losing two veteran 20-yearolds is hard in the locker room and on the ice, Lloydminster is still capable of playing high calibre hockey. With new bodies, it’s still just about playing a complete game, and so far the new faces look to be fitting in.
“These are guys that can certainly help us,” said VanHereweghe. “We lost two very good hockey players and hopefully we got two back that are going to fit in, and once they get comfortable with us, they are going to be a big benefit to this team.”
Lloydminster has three straight home games this week, as Whitecourt is in town on Wednesday, Drumheller on Friday and the Calgary Mustangs finish the week on Sunday with a 2:30 p.m. puck drop.