While the game was close, a win just wasn’t in the cards for Lacombe last Thursday night.
On Jan. 23, the Lacombe Bantam A Rockets lost to the Bashaw Stars 3-2 in back and forth game.
Coach Wesley Cross said the Stars are ranked higher than the Rockets and he was impressed with how his team played.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played. They played awesome.”
The game was close right from the beginning and the two teams kept pace with each other easily. Lacombe opened up scoring for the game but were overtaken by Bashaw who scored two points to end the period 2-1 in their favour.
In the second period, the Rockets pressured the Stars, pressing them into their own zone and allowing them more than a few near goals. Bashaw did a good job defending their lead though, matching Lacombe’s attacks with their own, but not quite good enough.
Towards the end of the period, the Stars began to tire, allowing the Rockets more control of the puck and the game and leading to a goal to tie up the game 2-2 at the end of the second.
Coming into the third, the Stars had seemingly lost the apparent fatigue from the previous period and showed they were eager to gain the lead once again. While the Rockets continued to put pressure on the Stars and take the fight to the their end, pressure in Lacombe’s own defensive zone led to passing mistakes that allowed Bashaw quite a few shots on net.
Goaltender Dusten Hoogkamp did a great job saving most of those shots, making 31 saves throughout the game in total.
But he wasn’t quite fast enough to catch one that came up just over his glove halfway through the third. It would make the score 3-2 for Bashaw and be the game-winning goal.
With seconds left in the game, Cross decided to pull Hoogkamp in favour of another skater, only to have play re-enter the Rockets’ defensive zone once Hoogkamp was on the bench. Time ran out, saving the Rockets from an empty net goal but Cross said that in any case the risk was worth it.
“A loss is a loss,” said Cross. “Whether you lose 4-2 or 3-2 it’s the same thing.”
Bashaw and Lacombe have met twice before this season. Each time before, the score was 4-2 with the Rockets winning once and Lacombe winning once. Cross said that while Bashaw is top in the league and Lacombe second from the bottom, all the teams in the league are fairly evenly matched and games are always close.
Passing was what brought down the Rockets in the end, said Cross. He added that weak passing has plagued the team all season.
On the other hand, Cross said the team did a great job of getting possession of the puck back once they lost it and it was clear that the Rockets were not afraid to get aggressive and use the body to do it.
While Lacombe demonstrated strong hitting in the game against Bashaw, Cross said it is still something they need to continue working on as the post-season draws near.
He added other teams in the league have demonstrated even stronger hitting skills and Lacombe will need to improve to compete with them.
While the Rockets were not afraid to hit or be aggressive, they also showed great discipline. Even though there were numerous penalties to both sides and a bit of rough play, Rocket players seldom retaliated to give their team a disadvantage.
“I believe we are the least penalized team in the league. They do put their teammates first and they don’t take penalties.”