Bobcats 3, Renegades of Puck 2

Renegades of Puck drop second straight as the short-handed Bobcats finally solve goaltender Aaron Froats in a 3-2 victory.

FALL 2023 - WEEK 6RENEGADES OF PUCKBOBCATS

Aaron Froats

9/29/20236 min read

The Bobcats and the Renegades of Puck is a ticket to get if you want to see a close, gritty hockey game that usually comes down to the wire. A ticket? In this case, it is an expression as there is no price for admission to these matchups, but one could argue that you could start charging. Wednesday night marked the fourth matchup between the two squads and all three of the prior tilts were decided by a single goal. In fact, the game-winning goal was scored midway through the third period or later, including the shootout victory by the Bobcats in their debut meeting during Week 3 of the Summer season. This game, however, would have a little different feel to it.

The Renegades of Puck were coming off a head scratcher in Week 5 where the team looked out of character versus a Puck Buddies team that was beatable on paper. The Bobcats would have Omar Soliman in net again, marking the fourth meeting between he and Froats already this season, including the 4-3 faceoff just two weeks prior when Jon Bellucci would deposit the game winner with less than five minutes to play. To add to the storylines, even with the three goals against back in Week 4, Froats was holding the Bobcats to a dominating 1.75 GAA in his four wins over the course of his career.

As the teams took the ice for warmups, there was a noticeable difference for this meeting. While the Renegades were suited up with their normal full bench, it looked like the Bobcats were on the verge of forfeiting. Even with subs Paul Lasalandra and JJ Shire taking their pregame laps, there were only five skaters on that side of the ice. A sixth would shortly be added as the puck dropped for the start of the game, but the question was what effect would the severely short bench have on the game. On one side, the full compliment of players on the away bench, including the return of defenseman Brandon Adams and forward Zack McCann, meant they had the possibility of simply outlasting the Bobcats. However, because there was only one skater on the Bobcat bench, that meant either star forward Zach Turner or Lasalandra – or even both – would always be on the ice to shut down.

With the Renegades focusing on their defensive positioning and locking down the transition game in response to their play from the week prior, the Bobcats tried exploiting their speed advantage from the onset. The discipline paid off for the team in white as the game could have easily fallen into shambles in a hurry. Froats faced a whopping 11 shots in the first period and it could be argued that almost all of the them were quality scoring opportunities, including a highlight early in the game. Turner took a broken play in the neutral zone and took off before the Renegades blueliners could pivot back. With speed and good hands, Turner came from Froats’s right and crossed in front of the crease, drawing him to the opposite post leaving the back half of the net yawning. Froats managed to get his paddle down back across the goal line to stop the breakaway, only to have the puck ricochet back to Turner’s stick and requiring another pad save to keep the score blank, which is where it would stay the entire frame.

The second period saw the Renegades settling into even more of a lockdown defensive stance, with the Bobcats doing what they can to match them. Turner began rotating into the defensive position throughout the period, which only further stymied the Renegades offense. But don’t worry, we finally saw some action in the second. Almost four minutes in, Lasalandra would find himself on a breakaway of his own. While Froats matched his speed stride for stride, the forward sniped the shot over the blocker shoulder with Froats only being able to get a piece of the puck, putting the first goal on the board. Exactly two minutes later, the Bobcats were setting up shop in the offensive zone. The puck was being controlled on the blue line when Hunter Candari threw a low wrister towards the net. It was slowed down by a Renegades defenseman, but unfortunately Froats was already down to make the initial save when Turner picked up the loose puck and put home his eighth of the season, extending the lead to two. As the second goal hit the scoreboard, there was a clear difference in the bench of the Renegades when facing a two-goal deficit Wednesday night versus the previous week. The determination was ever present and it would lead to a chance for them late in the second. Breaking out of the zone with less than four minutes to play, Tom Buysse outlet to Kris Martel to swing the play in the opposite direction. Martel pushed the puck to open ice to be picked up by a streaking Jon Bellucci who flashed into the zone heading straight for the net. His speed was no match for Soliman, as a five-hole bullet found the back of the net for his third of the season, cutting the lead in half. It would be one of only two shots on goal for the away squad in the second, with shots on goal standing at 16-8 heading into the intermission.

The Renegades key to the game heading into the final frame was to get more pucks on net. Though Soliman had only faced eight shots, his usual outstanding rebound control was not on display, so the Renegades wanted to take advantage. Storming out in the third, and with fatigue beginning to grasp the home team, the Renegades began putting shots on net and creating opportunities. It looked like captain Charlie Saunier was going to add his name to the scoresheet for the first time this season, but his shot rang off the post, leaving the score 2-1 early in the third. While some Bobcats could be seen laboring, the motors of Lasalandra and Turner were still humming. Coming out of the corner in the offensive zone, Lasalandra looked to slam home a near-side marker, only to be met with the right pad from Froats. The puck would remain loose and Froats was slow to cover. An unmarked Turner streaked in from the side boards and was able to poke home the biscuit for his second of the game, bringing the lead back to two. The barrage of the Renegades of Puck would continue and, shortly thereafter, pay dividends once again as Chris Brady cleaned up a rebound two minutes later, netting his third of the campaign and drawing a timeout from the shorthanded home team.

The timeout provided a much-needed breather for the Bobcats, but the momentum was now in the Renegades favor. The Cats would only muster a single shot on goal after their timeout as the clock dwindled down, with the Renegades applying pressure. They would take their own timeout with 3:30 on the clock to set up for one last push. With Froats poised to leave the net, it appeared Bellucci was dumped along the near boards in the offensive zone and every referee on the away bench was making a call. Lone official, Colby Jordan, was not. However, seconds later, a buzzer from the scores box stopped play. Confusion set in as Jordan made his way to the referee circle. With Commissioner Jason Pepperack manning the scoresheet, and having a much clearer vantage point to the play, he was looking to make the call himself. Bellucci, in an act of great sportsmanship, acknowledged he lost an edge and no penalty was assessed. Play would resume and Froats would make his way to the bench moments later, putting a sixth skater on the ice with 90 seconds to play. Even with the momentum clearly in their favor, the Renegades were unable to net the tying goal and the Bobcats took the win, 3-2.

The win meant the Bobcats have now leapt over the Renegades in the standings, who continue to slide down the table on their two-game losing streak. The Bobcats will look to have their full roster next week as they face the stingy Classics in Week 7 on Thursday, October 5. The two goals by Turner tied him for the league-lead at nine with Zach Dunne of the Norse at night’s end. The Renegades will be looking to right the ship next week with the night cap on Thursday, hosting the Woollies. It will undoubtedly be yet another tilt between crease constants Froats and Soliman once again.