Brooks holds off Ottawa to advance to NJAC title game

BROOKS, Alta. ? Simon Boyko opened the scoring in the first period and set up the game-winning goal in the third, and the Brooks Bandits (AJHL) survived a wild third period to edge the Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL) 4-3 on Saturday afternoon and punch their ticket to the championship game at the 2019 National Junior A Championship.

The Bandits are the fifth-consecutive host team to reach the final; they will face either the Oakville Blades or Prince George Spruce Kings on Sunday (3 p.m. MT, TSN) in search of their second national title.

Ryan Mahshie scored less than two minutes into the third period to make it a 4-1 game, parking himself in front and finishing a centring pass by Boyko for a power-play goal that seemingly put Brooks in control.

But Geoff Dempster outmuscled a Bandits defender and scored shorthanded at 4:10 of the final frame, and a shot from Bailey Brant redirected off Conor Smart and beat goaltender Pierce Charleson off a mad scramble three-and-a-half minutes after that, making it a one-goal game.

Charleson locked it down from there, including a diving stop off a Kyle Jackson one-timer with less than 10 seconds to go that may have saved the Bandits? season.

Brooks also got a little help from the Jr. Senators, who were called for a momentum-killing too many men on the ice penalty with under two minutes left.

Boyko got the capacity crowd at the Centennial Regional Arena into the game early, taking a stretch pass from Jakob Lee and beating tournament MVP Francis Boisvert low to the glove side on the breakaway for a 1-0 lead just 2:48 in.

Ray Christy extended the lead late in the first period, finding room upstairs on the short side from in tight, and William Lemay squeezed a shot through Boisvert from the high slot in the first minute of the second to make it a three-goal advantage.

Jackson got one back for Ottawa before the end of the second, burying a cross-crease pass from Darcy Walsh for a power-play marker to cut the deficit to 3-1 after 40 minutes.

It?s the second year in a row the Jr. Senators have suffered a one-goal loss to the host team in the semifinals; they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Chilliwack Chiefs in 2018.

Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada