Bandits edge Spruce Kings, finish atop NJAC prelim standings

BROOKS, Alta. ? Andrew Lucas scored the game-winning goal with just under 13 minutes to go in an eventual 3-1 win by the Brooks Bandits (AJHL) over the Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) on Thursday night and a perfect preliminary-round record at the 2019 National Junior A Championship.

The Bandits are just the sixth host team since the start of the five-team format in 1990 to win all four of its prelim games, joining the 1994 Olds Grizzlys, 1996 Melfort Mustangs, 2002 Halifax Oland Exports, 2010 Dauphin Kings and 2012 Humboldt Broncos.

Carter Wolski and Brandon Scanlin had the other goals for Brooks, which outshot Prince George 11-4 in the decisive third period and held a 31-22 advantage overall.

Brooks will now face the Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL) in the early semifinal Saturday (2 p.m. MT), while the Spruce Kings will face off against the Oakville Blades (OJHL) in the late game (7 p.m. MT).

Lucas ignited the standing-room only crowd at the Centennial Regional Arena with his game-winner, driving hard to the net and chipping his own rebound over a sprawling Logan Neaton.

The highly-anticipated match-up ? the seventh between the teams in the last 21 days ? lived up to the hype.

Both teams came out firing in the first period, combining for 23 shots on goal (13-10 in favour of Brooks), and it was the Bandits who drew first blood late in the opening frame; Wolski circled the net and let go a shot from a sharp angle that sneaked under the arm of Neaton and just trickled over the goal-line.

Prince George got even with less than 70 seconds to go in the second period when Nick Poisson got his stick on a hard wrist shot from Dylan Anhorn to send the game to the intermission tied 1-1.

The Spruce Kings had their chances in the third period, particularly on a pair of power plays in the final six minutes, but could not put another puck behind Pierce Charleson, who made 21 saves.

Scanlin sealed the win with 21.7 seconds to go, hitting the empty net from deep in his own zone.

Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada