PENTICTON, B.C. – Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) had a 19-save shutout, while Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) wowed the crowd with a slapshot so hard it got stuck in the back of the net, as the Brooks Bandits (4-0) cruised to a 5-0 win over the Manitoba champion Portage Terriers (1-2) at the Western Canada Cup on Wednesday night.
The win makes the Bandits the second team in WCC history to go undefeated in the round robin, after last year’s Brooks team, and earns it a spot in the championship game on Saturday at 8:00 PM Alberta time against the BCHL representative Chilliwack Chiefs, who clinched second in the round robin standings by virtue of Portage’s loss.
The Bandits outshot the Terriers 43-19 in the game, including a 33-10 margin in the final two periods. Benson’s shutout launched his tournament-leading save percentage to .938, putting him in significant contention for the tournament’s top goaltender award.
After an evenly played opening half of the first period, Brooks took its first and only necessary lead on a Portage turnover, as Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) collected a puck at the left circle and fired a pass to the top of the crease for Ty Mappin (Big Valley, AB) to jam past Portage goalie Brock Aiken for a 1-0 Bandit advantage.
On a late first period Portage power play, Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) doubled the lead for Brooks, carrying in on a shorthanded one-on-one and firing a quick wrister from the high slot past Aiken for a 2-0 advantage.
In the third, the oft-struggling Bandit power play went to work, with Makar centering a puck from the end boards to Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) who wristed a shot home from the left circle to make it 3-0 just 1:19 into the middle frame.
Makar then pulled off the highlight of the tournament so far at 11:48, as a setup by Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) led to the NHL draft prospect wiring home a slapshot from the right circle that got wedged in the upper left back of the Portage net, requiring two officials to remove it to resume play.
Just under two minutes later, Makar scored again, this time sweeping home a shot from the net front on a perfect setup from the high slot by Mappin for an even strength marker and a 5-0 lead.
The Bandits will be the nominal home team for the championship game on Saturday night and control the last line change, which was not the case when they defeated Chilliwack to open the tournament round robin last Saturday afternoon. The Bandits have finished first in the round robin in both prior Western Canada Cups they’ve attended, but have yet to win the championship game.
Pre-game coverage begins at 7:30 PM Alberta time on Real Country 105.7.
(Photo: Cherie Morgan Photography)