Photo: Cherie Morgan
PENTICTON, B.C. – Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) had a hat trick, while Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) stopped 29 of 30 shots, as the Brooks Bandits captured their first-ever Western Canada Cup with a 6-1 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs in the tournament championship game on Saturday night.
The win earns the Bandits a spot in the 2017 RBC Cup national championship in Cobourg, Ontario, which they will open next Saturday afternoon against the champions of the Fred Page Cup.
It was the third WCC championship game in five years for the Bandits, a game they had never won until tonight, when a four-goal second period that included an 18-4 shot advantage turned out to be the turning point.
Brooks opened the scoring 11:54 into the game when Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) cut to the slot from behind the net and fired a turnaround shot through a crowd and past goalie Mark Sinclair to make it 1-0. But seconds later, the Chiefs were awarded a power play and after a series of sensational Benson saves, Justin Dixson knocked home a rebound goal from the left circle to tie it 1-1. The Chiefs outshot the Bandits 13-7 in the opening frame.
But in the second, the Bandits reclaimed the lead when Jean scored his first of the game, hammering home a rebound goal from the right circle on the power play to make it 2-1. Then, Kord Pankewicz (Drayton Valley, AB) from the end wall set up Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) in the slot for a rocket of a one-timer goal for a 3-1 Bandit advantage.
With less than three minutes left in the middle frame, Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) skated coast-to-coast and drove to the Chilliwack slot, firing a shot that Sinclair stopped. But the Bandit defender grabbed the puck at the end boards and flung it to the high slot where Jean let a long wrister go that beat Sinclair through traffic to make it 4-1.
Before the period was out, Jean completed his hat trick with a one-timer goal from the right circle with just 13 seconds left in the period, for a 5-1 Brooks advantage.
But the Chiefs received new life when Jake Theis (Chanhassen, MN) was called for a kneeing major just under halfway through the third, giving Chilliwack a five-minute power play. But the Chiefs also pulled their goalie, and after Benson made more key saves early in the PK, Parker Foo (Edmonton, AB) forced a turnover at the red line and scored on the empty net from neutral ice to notch the 6-1 final score.
The Bandits are the first team to go an entire Western Canada Cup tournament without losing a single game. They will open their RBC Cup round robin play at 1:30 PM Alberta time next Saturday against either the Carleton Place Canadians or the Terrebonne Cobras, depending on the result of Sunday’s Fred Page Cup final.