Renegades of Puck 2, Bobcats 1 (SO)

Renegades of Puck and Bobcats faceoff in another one-goal affair to begin the Spring 2024 campaign


Aaron Froats

1/6/20245 min read

If I told you that the Bobcats and Renegades of Puck were going to have a close battle, you shouldn’t be surprised. If there was a prop bet for the game to be a decided by one goal, you could feel confident in putting some serious money on it, as all four previous matchups were one-goal contests. The season opener for the Spring 2024 season would be no different.

The game would have a somber start as there was a scary injury in the previous game between the Puck Buddies and the Classics, which delayed the game for almost 30 minutes. Reports are that the player is recovering and should return soon. The game would start out weird for the Renegades yet still, as the first shift of the game saw captain, Charlie Saunier, have issues with his skate blade and have to leave the ice. Even with the help of the pro shop, the Renegades would be without their captain for the entire first period and halfway through the second. This was only compounded by the fact that the away team only suited 10 skaters from the onset after a late scratch to starting center Chris Brady, due to illness.

Despite being shorthanded, the Renegades managed to exact their neutral zone defense as they normally do, keeping the momentum slow throughout the opening frame. Zack Scott would make his NAIHL debut in net for the Bobcats and would be able to ease into it for the most part, aside from one moment midway through the period. Jon Bellucci, moving to defense for the season with Saunier moving up to center, was able to break loose on a broken line change, scooting up the far boards towards the offensive zone. He turned the corner for an angled approach at the tall goaltender, but Scott sealed off the near post and make his first big save of the season. His counterpart, Aaron Froats, was equal to the task through the first, when an unfortunate series of bounces failed him. With just over 3 minutes remaining, captain Adam Leeds took a shot from the top of the faceoff circle to Froats’s right. Bellucci managed to block the shot, but the puck caromed back out to forward Elijah Jarovich, who was back in the Bobcats lineup after taking a season off. Jarovich strafed to his right, with Froats attempting to match his movement while still down. As the forward ripped a shot to the net, Froats was only able to catch a piece and the Bobcats took a one goal lead, which they would maintain into the intermission.

The second period saw similar play to the first, with even the Bobcats employing a stingy defense in the middle of the ice, making space a premium. Shots from both sides were restricted to the outside with both netminders able to set up for square and unimpeded position for the attempts. Even more impressive by both sides was their defenses’ ability to clear the zone after initial attempts. If the goaltenders were not swallowing up the shots, the defensemen were quick to get the puck up the boards to their wingers and out of the zone. A very uneventful period saw some signs of life as the last minute approached. As the play began to move away from the defensive zone of the Renegades, Skip McFarland, who had moved over to left wing after much success on the right side last season with the short lineup, chipped the puck up the left side as Bryce Levet was cutting across the center. In stride, Levet picked up the pass for a breakaway on Scott. This time Scott was not able to cut down the shooter and the team in white tied the game up at one heading into the third.

To no surprise to anyone familiar with the matchup, the hard-fought play would carry throughout the final stanza. Both teams managed to tighten up their defense even more, but that also meant any breakdowns would lead to premium opportunities. The stingy play turned into something of promise for the Renegades about four minutes into the third. Dave Dennis was whistled for tripping, sending the away squad on the only man advantage of the night. Even with the extra man and more open ice, the Renegades were unable to set up in the zone and string together a series of attacks. The Bobcats managed to block three shots while on the kill, successfully thwarting off the opposing powerplay.

As the teams resumed even play, the puck would continue to be pushed back and forth with little sustained pressure. It was only a matter of time before a mistake would lead to an opening for either team. The Renegades got their chance first when Brandon Adams was able to carry the puck from his zone right up the middle unabated. Fending off a defender in the offensive zone, a high shot on net was fought off by Scott, who did very well using his size to his advantage in net during the game. At the other end, Froats made a key save of his own. Midway through the third, Jarovich swing around the back of the net for a loose puck and attempted to slide out in front of the net off the wraparound. The smaller netminder stayed true to his position against the post and deflected the shot off to the corner with his glove to keep the game deadlocked.

As the buzzer sounded on the third period, the referees huddled with the captains by the scorekeeper. Due to the delayed start, the parties decided to forgo the typical five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period and move directly to a shootout, with the home team shooting first. An opening glove side stop by Froats yielded to Bellucci to take the first attempt for the Renegades. He beat Scott on a nifty move, but the puck rang off the crossbar. After shots by Hunter Candari and Zack McCann in round two were stymied, both Jarovich and Levet both took their shots at securing victory for their teams. Jarovich’s five-hole shot was sealed off by Froats and Levet was shutdown by a big pad save from Scott. The fourth round appeared to move in favor of the Bobcats. After Brandon Adams was unable to convert his attempt, forward John Cogger took the ice to seal the game. He performed his best Evgeny Kuznetsov impression, carrying the puck down in painstakingly slow fashion. While Froats did his best to wait him out, he guessed wrong and was down on the ice early with little hope of stopping the skater from moving around the sold-out goaltender. Unfortunately, as Cogger moved to his right, he pushed to puck ahead too far and lost the handle.

The fifth round started off with new addition to the Renegades, defenseman John Powenski, who came over from the Your Mother in Law squad after their departure. Powenski certainly sped up becoming a part of the team with the first goal of the shootout. As he was being congratulated by his teammates, Tim Remick stepped up to try and force a sixth round. As Remick touched the puck on the way in, Froats came out to past the hashmarks, attempting to severely cut down the angle. He managed to push Remick to the goaltender’s right and as the puck carrier took an extra stride to go around and stuff home the tying marker, Froats was able to extend out his right pad to the post and stop the shot, sealing the shootout victory for the Renegades.

Kristopher Martel appears to be a scratch once again, recovering from injury, for week two with the Renegades of Puck hosting the Puck Buddies in the first game of the night. However, it looks like the team should get back late week one scratch Brady, as well as forward Mike Mielnik. No word yet if Kyle Woodall will make his season debut on Thursday. The Renegades are looking to atone for the 9-2 lopsided affair in round two of the Fall 2023 playoffs.

The Bobcats will be the visiting team taking on the defending champion Norse. The Bobcats were shut out by the Norse in round two of the playoffs, but Zach Dunne – who scored a hat trick in that game – is no longer on the Norse roster. The Bobcats will definitely need more shots as the five shots on goal in that contest was not a good recipe for success. The two will drop the puck in the late game on Thursday.