BROOKS, AB – The Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) are elated to announce that 1997-born goaltender Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) has committed to attend and play for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The Nanooks play in the NCAA Division I Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) under 9th-year head coach Dallas Ferguson, with a roster currently featuring former Bandit Tristan Thompson, and previously having featured Bandit alumnus goalie Chad Johnson.
Benson, 19, joined the Bandits in late October after being acquired from the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). Despite the abbreviated regular season, Benson nonetheless led the entire AJHL in wins, posting a 36-3-2 record and helping the Bandits to their third-ever Dave Duchak Trophy as regular season champions. No other goalie in the league had more than 29 wins.
“Mitch has been one of our most valuable players all season,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “Since his acquisition our team has had tremendous success, backstopped by his performances in goal.
“He has a great attitude and a non-stop work ethic which have given our team plenty of confidence playing in front of him,” he added. “All Mitch needed was an opportunity to prove himself and earn a Division I scholarship; 45 games later he’s achieved his goal.”
Benson also set a new team record for save percentage at .929, leading the league and breaking Chad Johnson’s previous franchise mark. He led the AJHL in shutouts with 7, tying the franchise record set by Michael Fredrick in 2013. He also placed second in the AJHL in goals against average at 1.73, behind only his goaltending teammate Alex Horawski (Toronto, ON), with whom he shared the AJHL Top Team Goaltenders Award this season. Benson was also named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the regular season.
So far in the playoffs, Benson has posted a 4-0 record with a .966 save percentage and 0.75 goals against average, and in posting two playoff shutouts has set a new franchise record for total single-season shutouts by a Bandit goaltender with 9.
Prior to his rookie season last year with Victoria in the BCHL, Benson played for the Victory Honda U18 team of the Tier I Elite Hockey League in Plymouth, Michigan, and prior to that played two years of Midget AAA for the Windsor Jr. Spitfires in Ontario, leading his league in save percentage at .924 in his final midget year in 2013-14.
Benson is the 11th player on the current Bandits roster committed to an NCAA Division I school, joining:
• Cale Makar (University of Massachusetts)
• Josh McKechney (Colgate University)
• Parker Foo (Union College)
• Joe O’Connor (Quinnipiac University)
• Charlie Marchand (Bentley University)
• Ocean Wiesblatt (University of Vermont)
• Orca Wiesblatt (University of Vermont)
• Nick Prkusic (Robert Morris University)
• Oliver Chau (University of Massachusetts)
• Arnaud Vachon (Colgate University)
The Bandits are next in action Friday, March 31st hosting the Okotoks Oilers in Game 1 of the AJHL South Division Final at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.