Exactly a year ago, the Brooks Bandits were watching the Penticton Vees cruise the ice in the South Okanagan Events Centre, celebrating and cheering with the Doyle Cup.
It left a bitter taste.
It also left a healthy dose of motivation.
So much so that when the Bandits repeated as Alberta Junior Hockey League champions on April 19, beating Spruce Grove in five games, the celebration was somewhat muted — almost as if they were being handed the dusty old Clarence Campbell trophy and not the Stanley Cup.
“The league title this year wasn’t nearly the same (emotional high) as last year because we are focused on bigger goals,” said Bandits head coach Ryan Papaioannou earlier this week. “I think our guys rebounded very quickly. I think we were back in the rink at 11 a.m. the next day for a meeting and a practice.”
And that’s why April 27, 2013, couldn’t be more different than April 27, 2012 for the Bandits. Instead of a bitter loss to the Vees (“We don’t want to remember that,” Papaioannou grimaced. “We reset.”), Saturday is a day of rebirth as they open their pursuit of a RBC Cup berth at the newly-christened Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup against the BCHL champions, the Surrey Eagles.
Rather than a best-of-seven series, like the Doyle Cup was, the RBC berths are up for grabs in a tournament format, featuring a host (Nanaimo, B.C.) and the four champs from the Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues (Brooks, Surrey, Yorkton and Steinbach, respectively).
“I like it,” said Papaioannou over the phone from Nanaimo after his team arrived on Wednesday — the first squad to get into town. “In this format, you will see the top two teams.”
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