Photo: Cherie Morgan
PENTICTON, B.C. (May 2, 2017) – The Brooks Bandits secured a spot in the Western Canada Cup playoff round with a penalty-filled 4-1 win over the Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League on Tuesday afternoon.
The teams split 14 power plays in the game, with Brooks going 0 for 5 on the man advantage and 8 for 9 on the penalty kill.
Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) led the way statistically with 3 assists, while Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) and Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) both and one goal and one assist performances, with goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) making 19 saves to stretch his record to 3-0.
The Bandits opened the scoring on the opening shift as Parker Foo (Edmonton, AB) scored on a wraparound just 25 seconds into the game. Just over six minutes later, Brooks doubled the lead on a nifty three-way passing play, as Ty Mappin (Big Valley, AB) feathered a puck to Chau at the side of the net, whose quick cross-crease pass found Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) for a backdoor tap-in and 2-0 lead.
Midway through the frame, Battlefords forward Jared Blaquiere was ejected with a major penalty for charging on Jean at the end wall, though the Bandit forward would return. Battlefords nonetheless killed off the five minute penalty.
The Bandits outshot the North Stars 15-8 in the first but found themselves on a whopping six consecutive penalty kills beginning in the second. A two-man breakaway for McKechney and Chau led to Chau’s goal on a perfect cross-crease setup to make it 3-0 Brooks at the 9:59 mark.
Battlefords’ repeated power play opportunities paid off at 12:29 when a Coby Downs shot from the left circle was tipped by Benson by Keaton Holinaty to pull the Saskatchewan champs back within two.
Brooks responded in style at 4:41 of the third when Jean, fresh out of the penalty box after the Bandits’ sixth straight PK, received a perfect breakaway pass from McKechney and flipped a forehand shot past goalie Joel Gryzbowski to notch the 4-1 final score.
The Bandits sit in first in the Western Canada Cup standings with 8 points in 3 games and cannot finish fifth, meaning they are guaranteed a spot in the Saturday playoff rounds. A regulation win over the Portage Terriers tomorrow night at 8:00 PM Alberta time would clinch first in the round robin, and last change for the tournament final on Saturday night.
Pre-game coverage for the Bandits’ final round robin game against the Manitoba champion Terriers will begin at 7:30 PM on Real Country 105.7.