The Frog Lake T-Birds wrapped up their 2017-2018 season in fine fashion on Saturday night. With a lot riding on the final few games of the season around the league, Frog Lake did their part to maintain solid playoff positioning with a 6-1 win over the Lloydminster Bandits at home.
Darian Gamble had an outstanding night for Frog Lake, and he opened up the scoring midway through the first period with a slick tic-tac-toe effort assisted by Curtis Scales and Jeremy Chief. The T-Birds continued to play with an offensive barrage, tallying their second of the night with five minutes remaining in the first, courtesy of Michael Cardinal, with helpers by Brennan Grocock as well as team captain and Frog Lake veteran, Josh Swampy.
Frog Lake’s third goal came just minutes later on a breakout play. Cardinal snapped the puck up to Grocock, who put it in high to put the T-Birds up 3-0.
In the closing minute of the first period, Lloydminster found a crack in the Frog Lake defense and exploited it to grab a quick goal to bring the game back within relative reach.
Just over a minute into the second period, however, the T-Birds regained their three-goal lead. Kaleb Many Fingers got the puck out of Frog Lake’s defensive end and over to Gamble, who took off on a breakaway and slipped the puck past the Bandits goalie to snag his second goal of the night, and to put the T-Birds up 4-1.
Two more back-to-back breakaway plays were sized by the home team, but Lloydminster netminder Danton Brooks stepped up in a big way to prevent Frog Lake from putting any more points on the board.
Things got a bit dicey in the second, and pre-playoff emotions ran high for both teams. Small scuffles and brawls broke out on multiple occasions and 80 penalty minutes were assigned during the second period, including a handful of game and ten-minute misconducts.
Swampy scored Frog Lake’s fifth goal in the third period on yet another breakaway play, and the T-Birds continued to dominate on both ends of the ice. The Bandits managed to get a total of 30 shots on net, but Justin Fedoruk, Frog Lake’s goalie, played a near-perfect game. With just 20 seconds left, Gamble was able to shove the puck into the Bandits’ net during a scramble in front, completing the hat-trick and wrapping up the game at 6-1.
Frog Lake coach Harvey Smyl’s reaction to the win was a characteristic mix of optimism and constructive criticism.
“I think we played a pretty strong game,” Smyl said. “Obviously we did really well offensively, but that isn’t really something that we’ve struggled with this year. But there were some moments, especially in the second period, where we didn’t quite play like ourselves. Our defense wasn’t as tight as it could have been, and we should have had a bit more composure and discipline to avoid taking so many penalties.”
Frog Lake will be meeting the Lac La Biche Clippers in the first round of the playoffs; which get underway next week. Coach Smyl is plenty confident in his teams’ ability to win games:
“Playoffs are playoffs, and each game could go either way,” he said. “But we’ve had a solid season. There were hills and valleys like any other team would have. But overall it’s been really positive, and we can just continue to play our game, making small adjustments depending on who we play during the run.”
The T-Birds will have home ice advantage in the first round, and their playoff race will begin on Friday, February 16, in Frog Lake.