Raiders and Bobcats tied up
Best-of-five midget AAA north division final deadlocked at 1-1 after 4-1 Lloydminster win in St. Albert
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 06:00 am
The fork in the road in the midget AAA playoffs for the St. Albert Raiders is Saturday’s game-three showdown in Lloydminster.
A victory against the Border City Bobcats would give the Raiders the upper hand in the best-of-five north division final but a loss would leave them scrambling to stay alive in the series.
“It’s definitely decision-making time,” said co-captain Harrison Klein.
Wednesday’s third-period collapse by the Raiders in the 4-1 loss in St. Albert evened the series at one game apiece.
Sunday in game one the Raiders battled back from a two-goal deficit to stun the Bobcats 3-2 in Lloydminster.
“It was definitely important to get that first game out there but it’s a shame we didn't get game two,” Klein said.
Game four goes Monday at 6:45 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena and game five, if needed, is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Lloydminster.
The winner of the Joe Cherrington Memorial Trophy as the north playoff champion will play the Red Deer Chiefs or Calgary Buffaloes in the best-of-five AMHL provincial final.
The Raiders have only themselves to blame for the game-two loss after defenceman Nathan Bizeau knotted the score at one early in the third period.
Eleven of the team’s 14 penalties were assessed in the third, including five-minute majors and game misconducts to Conner Lukan for a check from behind with 13:57 to play and the Bobcats shorthanded and Ty Lindberg for cross-checking with 5:02 remaining and the Raiders trailing by three.
The first of two goals by Mason Shaw – the top playoff scorer with seven goals and 12 points in five games – with 12:55 remaining put the Bobcats on top as the parade of penalties continued for the Raiders.
Thirty-three seconds after Shaw’s goal defenceman Kale Clague scored unassisted on the power play.
Less than two minutes later Shaw struck with the man advantage.
“In the third we got into a lot of penalty trouble and that really hurt us. We kind of lost our composure,” Bizeau said. “They’re a very offensive team so if we give them chances like that they’re going to score a lot. We’ve got to be disciplined and not give them those chances to get momentum.”
The Raiders were assessed 54 penalty minutes in total. The Bobcats had only seven minors in the entire game.
The Bobcats outshot the Raiders 23-3 in the third period and 44-16 overall.
Pat Dea (6-3, 1.94 GAA and .940 save percentage) started his ninth-straight playoff game and midget 15 affiliate Matt Murray spelled off the Edmonton Oil Kings’ draft pick for a couple of minutes in the third.
“The third period kind of got away from us,” Klein said. “I felt for the first 40 we were kind of hanging in there but it wasn’t our best hockey. We can definitely do better.”
Chasetan Braid of the Bobcats opened the scoring late in the first period and in the second the visitors outshot the Raiders 14-7.
“After the first our coach (Sandro Pisani) kept telling us to get pucks to the net and that's what we started to do. We changed our systems a bit and started getting more pucks on net and we were able to bang one home,” Klein said.
Bizeau’s first playoff goal was a wrister from the high slot on the power play that found the back of the net.
“We were moving it around good on the power play and it just hit something in front and I got lucky that it went in,” said Bizeau of his team-leading sixth point. “It’s kind of funny. I get teased a lot for some of those points because as much as I would like to take credit for them a lot of them weren’t really my assists.”
Bizeau, 17, expects the Raiders will rebound from Wednesday’s third-period meltdown.
“We’ve got to stay focused, play defensively and stick to the process and do what we’ve been doing in the playoffs. Hopefully we stay out of the box too,” said the Grade 11 St. Peter The Apostle High School student.
In game one Raiders rallied on goals by midget AA affiliate Eamon Moloy in the second and in the third Kole Bryks tied it with 9:09 to play and Parker AuCoin's team-leading third playoff goal, an unassisted marker on a breakaway with 3:10 remaining in regulation time, was the winner. Shots were 30-23 for the Bobcats.
“The first 20 of game one wasn’t that good but we picked it up for the last 40,” said Klein, a centreman who shares the team’s captaincy with Jason Miller.
The Raiders, ranked fifth in the north at 18-11-6, are the playoff underdogs against the Bobcats, who finished tied for first at 24-9-2 with the most wins in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League as the highest scoring team.
The Raiders are the No. 1 defensive team in the north as the second-best defensively team in the AMHL.
Klein, 18, believes the Raiders are playing their best hockey of the season in the playoffs.
“The word around the dressing room is that the me factor of our game has turned more into the we and it’s definitely showed in the playoffs with the we factor in our game. We’re playing more as a team,” said the Grade 12 Spruce Grove Composite High School student.