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Bobcats right wing Rob Johnson attempts to move the puck around Pontiacs defenceman Bekkam Willis during the second period of Lloydminster’s 4-2 win against Bonnyville at the Centennial Civic Centre on Friday. Jamie Harkins/Meridian Booster
The Lloydminster Bobcats proved a bit of determination can go a long way in their 2017-18 AJHL home opener.
The Bobcats beat the Bonnyville Pontiacs 4-2 in front of a big crowd of cheering black and orange supporters at the Centennial Civic Centre on Friday night.
The home side entered the season by pushing the play into the opposition zone throughout the opening 20 minutes, only to suffer a bit of a setback in the second period before regaining the momentum off a huge Zach Webb goal early in the third.
“It’s a huge confidence builder off the start,” said Webb.
“We need that one because people will start thinking we’re going to get back to last year’s mentality if we start losing off the start again, but we took it to them the whole game.”
The Bobcats controlled possession off the drop of the puck with defenceman Daniel Hilsendager earning the best scoring chance eight minutes into the opening frame with a slap shot from the point that forced Pontiacs goalie Sandro Silvestre to snap out his pad for the save.
Mack Gray found an opening a little over seven minutes later by shovelling the puck into an open corner while Silvestre attempted to find the rebound of Rylan Nivon’s shot from the middle of the circle.
Bobcats left wing Daniel Rybarik made the score 2-0 just under two minutes into the middle frame by swatting a Zach Ziegler rebound past a down and out Silvestre from the top of the crease.
The goal seemed to wake up the Pontiacs attack, with Brayden Goaulet capitalizing on his team’s sustained offensive pressure through one-timing a Joel Ray cross-ice pass far side on Bobcats netminder Reece Klassen.
Kobe Walker helped provide a reply late in the second period, winning a race to the puck near the half wall in the Pontiacs zone, before turning and firing it into the middle of the ice where Zach Kaiser waited to launch a shot high glove side.
Pontiacs left wing PJ Marrocco made it 3-2 on the power play just under four minutes into the third period, with Webb flashing the dagger on the ensuing rush.
“I was driving down the right side after (Rob) Johnson tipped it to me off the glass,” said Webb.
“I stopped up and just shot top corner and had him beat. It was a good play by Johnson on the wall.”
Travis Clayton, head coach and general manager of the Bobcats, said the boys moved their feet and backchecked well, causing the Pontiacs defence to turn the puck over.
He said they did let up a bit in the second period, but came back out strong in the third to finish the game.
“I just told the boys that every time they scored we answered quickly, and that’s the key,” said Clayton.
“They scored a big power-play goal and they’re right back in the game, but then we restored that two-goal lead. It’s a huge goal by Zach. I thought it calmed us down, and after that we were fine.”