Photo Credit - Chad Goddard:
Once again, the Brooks Bandits and the Okotoks Oilers find themselves squaring off in the Viterra AJHL South Division Final, meeting in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Last year, the top-seeded Oilers were able to best the Bandits in a thrilling six game series to advance to the AJHL Final while this year it’s the Bandits who rewrote the record book and benefit from home ice. After dispatching their second round opponents in five games, both teams enter this series feeling that they can win – and deservedly so.
(1) Brooks Bandits 114 points VS (2) Okotoks Oilers 80 points
Bandits vs Okotoks Head-to-Head
Why the Brooks Bandits can win: Much like every other opponent they came across, the Bandits dominated the Okotoks Oilers over the course of the regular season. Not only did they outscore the Oilers by nearly 20 goals in their six meetings, they held a talented Oilers power play to a single goal on 22 opportunities. Additionally, the sample space of Bandits’ head-to-head record against Okotoks is fairly recent as four of those six meetings came in the New Year including two in March. After enjoying a first round bye, the Bandits were also given anything but an easy task in the Canmore Eagles, so they come into this series a battle-hardened group. Given the record breaking season and extended periods of dominance showcased by the Brooks Bandits this year, the National Junior A Championship hosts won’t be surprising many if they take this series as the top ranked team in Canadian Junior Hockey.
This is the eighth consecutive year that Brooks has qualified for the league semi-final as well as the third straight season where the Bandits and Oilers will be the two teams battling for a spot in the Inter Pipeline Cup final.
Why the Okotoks Oilers can win: Despite some disappointing results against the Brooks Bandits this season, the Okotoks Oilers have plenty of evidence to back their aim of returning to the AJHL Final for the second consecutive year. Okotoks swept the Calgary Canucks 3 games to none in the opening round before defeating Camrose in five games in round two. There are plenty of holdovers from last year’s division championship squad, including AJHL MVP Dylan Holloway. Holloway is currently on a scoring tear, too – in just five playoff appearances this season, he has 7 goals and 9 points. Despite the lopsided season series, the Oilers did suffer a pair of one-goal defeats to Brooks including a tight 2-1 affair at the Pason Centennial Arena on March 1st that saw Okotoks outshoot Brooks 33-18. The Oilers are capable of keeping it close and tight. Finally, the Oilers showcased prolonged dominance in their series against the Camrose Kodiaks and outshot them heavily. The Okotoks Oilers certainly believe they can beat the Brooks Bandits and that’s definitely not a leap of faith.
The Brooks Bandits will open the 2019 South Division Final against the defending South champion Okotoks Oilers on Friday and Saturday night at the Centennial Regional Arena.