The Brooks Bandits have rarely faced adversity this Alberta Junior Hockey League campaign.
They ran the show in the regular season. They captured the club’s first league pennant. Swept the Calgary Canucks and Olds Grizzlys in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Even last weekend, they opened the AJHL’s final best-of-seven final series with a 5-1 dusting of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons to extend a 26-game win streak dating back to January.
So, needless to say, dropping subsequent games 7-1 and 3-2 shocked their system.
“That’s the worst we’ve lost all year,” said Bandits head coach Ryan Papaiannou. “It was probably a good thing. Obviously, we know in the playoffs that if you lose – by any score – it’s only one loss. To get beat that badly? It might have been a real good reality check. It kind of served as notice that it might not have been as easy as we might have thought.”
Taking that nugget into Tuesday’s game, they bounced back and muscled out a 3-2 victory at Fort McMurray in Game 4.
Tonight, they have a chance to pull ahead in the series in Game 5 at the Brooks’ Centennial Regional Arena.
But, the truth is, the minor blip in their quest for capturing the franchise’s first AJHL title is nothing compared to what this year’s group faced last summer.
Their biggest test so far came on July 5 when they received the news rookie forward Nick Crosby, a native of Ketchum, Idaho, had been involved in a motor vehicle accident while travelling back to stay with family in B.C. following the Bandits’ summer training camp. He died the following day at age 19.
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