Plenty to take from opening weekend


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September 22, 2016 12:00 AM

Travis Clayton didn’t want to focus on the negatives after the Lloydminster Bobcats’ first two games of the season.
They lost both, that’s negative enough, but the head coach instead looked at areas the team that looked good, knowing full well this season is going to have plenty of ups and plenty more downs along the way.
Twenty-four new players and a new coaching staff will do that.
It really wasn’t all that bad, actually.
Except they lost both.
That’s always bad and something no one on the team is going to accept moving forward.
But from a pure hockey standpoint, there was plenty of good things to take out of the first two games of the season that gives hope to Bobcats fans that the rebuild won’t take as long as would be expected.
Zach Webb looks like he could be a leading scorer in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) some day, while linemate Kobe Walker looked right at home with Webb on the top line.
No one seemed starstruck by the speed and pace of the junior A game and they weren’t over classed or out worked.
If you’re going to beat Lloydminster, you better bring your work boots and lunch bucket, because you’re going to need to earn it.
There were some mistakes, some negatives that obviously come out.
Long distance shots don’t get passed goalies in the AJHL like they did in midget and you that extra one to two seconds of stick handling in close that worked against a younger goalie isn’t going to fool a 19- or 20-year-old, let alone a defenceman who knows how to defend against it.
Those are the growing pains of a team that is still learning what their own identity is.
The head coach can tell you what you are, but it’s the players who have to go out and define the team they will be this season and how quickly they want to turn this program into a winning one again.
Lloydminster had a taste of what a national championship felt like and they want it back again.
No one, however, is putting that pressure on this team or expecting them to win the league this season.
Players and coaches can tell you up and down their goal is the same, to win a championship, but actually winning one takes something that, so far, no Lloydminster junior A team has been able to figure out how to do.
And that includes the one that hosted the RBC Cup last season and broke franchise records.
In fact, it might be the best thing I’ve heard out of plenty of fans over the week.
Their expectations are being kept in check, taking the pressure off the players and not making them live up to some ungodly expectation that isn’t warranted.
Just look at last year and the effect pressure and high expectations had on a team. It nearly worked, but there were some rocky moments for sure.
Lloydminster can be a national champion. They’ll just need to figure out first how to win the AJHL.
That falls now to Travis Clayton, a rookie head coach in the league who has to do what many of his predecessors weren’t able to do.
And out of the first two games of the season, Lloydminster didn’t look like champions.
But that’s perfectly fine, as you don’t win championships in September.
Clayton doesn’t want to look at the negatives right now. Let the boys live in the excitement of starting their junior A careers.
There will be plenty of time to talk about what needs fixing and what type of player the team needs to boost their line up.
That time is in November.
For now, it’s fun to just watch the players play.

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