Brooks Bandits Are Viterra AJHL South Division Champions

CAMROSE, AB (April 5, 2016) – The Brooks Bandits completed a four-game sweep of the Camrose Kodiaks with a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) South Division Final on Tuesday night, capturing the team’s fourth division championship in the last five seasons.

With the win, the Bandits advance to the AJHL Gas Drive Cup Final, where they will take on the winner of the North division championship series between the Spruce Grove Saints and Lloydminster Bobcats.

“I thought Camrose played really well,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou, “and I thought our guys did a good enough job weathering the storm.

“I told the guys at the end of the day, every playoff game is not going to work out as perfectly as some of them have so far, and the team that wins is the only thing that really matters.

“We stuck with it long enough, and our goaltender was fantastic.”

As in Game 3, Bandits netminder Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB) stole the show in the opening period, denying the Kodiaks on a bevy of golden scoring chances in a period in which the Bandits were held to five shots, their lowest total of the playoffs.

But it was Brooks to strike first, on the team’s first power play opportunity, when a puck deflected to defenceman Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) in the high slot of the Camrose zone. His quick slap shot beat goalie Patrick Gora through a screen for a 1-0 Bandits advantage.

In the second, the Bandits found themselves on the penalty kill three times, yet weathered the storm again and notched the only goal of the middle frame, when a desperation poke check shot by Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON) caromed off the pad of Gora, but straight to regular season leading scorer Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ), who tapped in the rebound for his team-leading seventh playoff goal and a 2-0 lead.

The Bandits pulled away significantly in the third period, launching a whopping 20 shots at Gora and notching three more goals.

First, Jared Cockrell converted on a net front scramble at 3:55 for a 3-0 advantage. Less than two minutes later, on an odd-man rush, captain Derek Lodermeier (Brooklyn Center, MN) snuck a low shot past Gora to make it 4-0.

The Kodiaks began to get into penalty trouble of their own late in the period, and Bandits defenceman Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) took advantage, with a point shot through a screen that made it 5-0 at the 16:27 mark.

With just 1:59 left in the game, Camrose captain Cam Gotaas knocked  a rebound past Hughson to spoil the shutout bid, which would have given the Bandits goalie the new AJHL record for post-season shutouts, which he has already tied at 4 so far.

The Bandits will now wait to see who their next opponent will be, with the North final currently showing a three games to one Spruce Grove lead, with Game 5 in that series set for Friday. The Gas Drive Cup Final is tentatively scheduled to start next Friday, April 15th.

“It gives another opportunity to take a couple of days off,” said Papaioannou, “from a staff perspective, it gives us a couple more days to work on some recruiting, and continue to put together our spring camp which is coming up next weekend

“For our players, [they] rest, recover their bodies, and then we get back at it with another good pre-scout of whoever we play, and hopefully we can execute another plan.”

It was the second consecutive year that the Bandits have defeated Camrose to win the South; last year’s win came in seven games. It is the first time the South division championship series has been won in a four-game sweep since 2012, when the Bandits defeated the Olds Grizzlys in four straight games en route to their first league championship in franchise history.