Bandits on brink of AJHL title, downing Whitecourt 3-2
WHITECOURT, AB – Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) had two goals, and became the AJHL’s leading playoff scorer, as the Brooks Bandits battled back from a 2-1 deficit to take Game 3 of the 2017 Gas Drive Cup Final by a 3-2 final score on Monday night at the Scott Safety Centre.
The win gives the Bandits a 3 games to none lead in the series and sets up Tuesday night’s Game 4 as a potential series clincher for Brooks’ fourth league championship.
McKechney’s first opened the scoring just 2:53 into the game when Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) carried in on a 2-on-1 rush. His perfect pass across to McKechney allowed the Bandit centreman to sneak a quick shot past Whitecourt goalie Pierce Diamond, making it 1-0 Brooks and continuing Plessis’ point-per-game playoff pace.
But the Wolverines battled back, as Ben Evanish collected a puck on a turnover from behind the Bandit net, curled from the left side of the net all the way to the right, out-waited goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON), and fired a puck into the open Brooks net to tie the game.
Minutes later, the Wolverines were granted a full 2-minute 5-on-3 power play when the Bandits were assessed simultaneous penalties for holding and cross-checking. Mitch Lipon fired a pass to defenceman Colton Meekhof who wristed home the go-ahead goal from the left circle to make it a 2-1 Whitecourt advantage after 1, despite a 14-10 Bandits shot advantage.
But Brooks took firm control in the second, outshooting Whitecourt 13-5 despite being on the frame’s only penalty kill. The lone goal came at the 10:29 mark when Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) slapped home a point shot through a screen to send the game to the third period tied 2-2.
In the third, McKechney broke the deadlock only 1:15 in, collecting a pass from the end wall by a pinching in Kord Pankewicz (Drayton Valley, AB) and one-timing a shot from the top of the crease into the back of the Whitecourt net to make it 3-2 Brooks.
The Wolverines pressed late, receiving a late power play when Mitch Lipon was hooked on a breakaway on which his eventual backhand shot was stopped by Benson. But the Bandits killed it off, and the result was sealed when Parker Foo (Edmonton, AB) was hauled down by Nick Quillan trying for the Whitecourt empty net, sending the Bandits to a 1-second power play to finish the game.
Brooks outshot the Wolverines 39-24 in the game, going 0 for 3 on the power play and 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. Benson made 22 saves on 24 shots for the win while Diamond was 36-of-39 in the loss.
Game 4 is scheduled for a 7:30 PM puck drop Tuesday night in Whitecourt, with pre-game coverage beginning at 7:15 on Real Country 105.7.