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BROOKS, AB – Orca Wiesblatt (Calgary, AB) scored with just under 5 minutes left in the game to break a scoreless deadlock, and Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) stopped all 25 shots he faced, as the Brooks Bandits (47-4-4) beat the Calgary Canucks 2-0 at the Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Friday night.
The win clinches the Dave Duchak Trophy as Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) regular season champions for the Bandits, who clinch first overall and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs for the third time in franchise history, and first since their 2012-13 RBC Cup-winning year.
Back and forth first and second periods saw Benson and Calgary goalie Logan Drackett dueling, with 22 and 20 saves after 40 minutes, respectively. Calgary received 4 of the 5 power plays awarded in the opening two periods, with the Bandit penalty kill playing a key role, highlighted by a sprawling right pad save by Benson on an open Matt Painchaud at the top of the crease early in the second period.
As time ticked away in the third, the Bandits finally broke through with just 4:31 left in regulation. Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) made a move to the slot and fired a shot on which Drackett made another highlight save; but the rebound came to Wiesblatt in the slot, whose desperation shot slid past the diving Calgary goalie for the eventual game-winning goal.
Seconds later, the Bandits were awarded a rare power play and converted only a few seconds into that, as Makar set up Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) in the slot for a quick wrister and 2-0 Bandit lead.
The Bandits outshot the Canucks by a whopping 22-3 margin in the third, and 43-25 total in the game.
The shutout by Benson ties the franchise record for shutouts by a goalie, at 7, matching Michael Fredrick’s tally in the 2012-13 season. The Bandits also, with their 10th team shutout, tie for the 5th-most shutouts in a season by a team in AJHL history, while Benson ties for the 3rd-most shutouts by a goaltender in league history as well.
The teams meet again Saturday night at the Centennial Regional Arena to cap off the regular season series, with puck drop at 7 o’clock; tickets are available at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.