BROOKS, AB – The Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) are proud to announce that 1997-born goaltender Mitchel Benson (Windsor, ON) has committed to attend and play for Colgate University, beginning in the 2018-19 NCAA season.
Located in Hamilton, New York, the Colgate Raiders play in the NCAA’s Division I ECAC Hockey conference, under 25th-year head coach Don Vaughan. Former Bandit forwards Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) and Jared Cockrell (Readfield, ME) currently play for the Raiders, while Benson’s teammates Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) and Brandon Scanlin (Hamilton, ON) are also committed to the school.
“Mitch has been nothing less than one of our best players over the past two seasons,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “His acquisition last season changed the dynamic of our team and allowed us to come within a goal of a national championship.
“This season he’s been a steadying influence for our guys and his best hockey of the season is yet to come,” he added. “Mitch works hard at the game and his success comes as no surprise to our staff.”
Benson, 20, is in his second season in Brooks, and currently leads all AJHL goaltenders in wins and minutes played, having suited up for 30 of the Bandits’ 31 games so far and posting a 20-9-1 record with a 2.52 goals against average, the eighth best in the league, and a .903 save percentage. He has played more than 300 minutes more than any other goalie in the AJHL, at 1,809 so far, and leads the league in shutouts with 3.
Last season, Benson was also the winningest goalie in the AJHL, posting a 36-3-2 record after an early-season trade from Victoria in the BCHL, and helping the Bandits to their third-ever Dave Duchak Trophy as regular season champions. No other goalie in the league had more than 29 wins.
Benson also set a new team record for save percentage at .929, leading the league and breaking Chad Johnson’s previous franchise mark. He led the AJHL in shutouts with 7, tying the franchise record set by Michael Fredrick in 2013. Benson was also named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the regular season. He is currently 1 shutout away from tying the franchise all-time mark for shutouts in the regular season and playoffs combined.
Prior to his Junior A career, Benson played for the Victory Honda U18 team of the Tier I Elite Hockey League in Plymouth, Michigan, and prior to that played two years of Midget AAA for the Windsor Jr. Spitfires in Ontario, leading his league in save percentage at .924 in his final midget year in 2013-14.
“In addition to his on ice abilities, Mitch is a tremendous person,” Papaioannou noted. “He’s very well liked by his teammates and is always willing to put in the time to be a positive contributor to our community.
“We are excited for Mitch and happy to have been the conduit to the NCAA for him.”
Benson is the ninth Bandit on the current team roster committed to an NCAA Division I school, joining:
• Nic Hamre (University of Vermont)
• Brandon Scanlin (Colgate University)
• Cale List (University of Massachusetts – Lowell)
• Matt Cassidy (Quinnipiac University)
• Simon Boyko (University of Vermont)
• Dennis Cesana (Michigan State University)
• Conner Jean (College of the Holy Cross)
• Arnaud Vachon (Colgate University)