BROOKS, AB – Jesse Pereira (Fort Erie, ON) scored 13:11 into overtime, as the Brooks Bandits took Game 1 of the 2016 Alberta Junior Hockey League Gas Drive Cup Final 3-2 at the Grant Fuhr Arena on Spruce Grove on Friday night.
The Bandits held a 2-0 lead after the first period, but the Saints battled back with one goal in each of the second and third periods to force the extra frame before Pereira’s dramatic difference-maker.
Despite being outshot in the first 13-10, the Bandits got the opening goal when Logan Mick (Vernon, B.C.) flipped a puck to the slot from the corner, which was batted out of mid-air by Landon Welykholowa (Calgary, AB) and past Saints goalie Matthew Murray to make it 1-0.
Brooks doubled that lead at the 14:35 mark when Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON) collected a turnover behind the Saints net and slid the puck in front to Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ). At first, the puck was caught in the Bandit leading scorer’s skates, but he quickly managed a backhand shot that hit the roof of the Saints net to make it a 2-0 game.
In the second, Spruce Grove got on the board when Brandon Biro centered a puck from the right corner to captain Tyler Busch in the slot. His quick backhander beat Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB) and cut the deficit in half. The tying goal came at the 16:24 mark of the third when Connor Lukan snuck a shot in from the right side of the Bandit net on the rush, forcing overtime.
In the opening minute of OT, Lukan appeared to have the game-winner sewn up when his shot from the high slot was blocked by a Bandit, but rolled right back to Lukan in front of the Bandit net, wide open. But his shot went off of Hughson’s arm and rocketed out of play to keep the Bandits alive.
Eventually, Pereira began the final play by carrying in to the left circle of the Saints zone, turning to get some extra space from a defender, and wiring a high shot that caught Murray’s glove but skipped in behind him and into the Saints net, sending the Bandits streaming onto the ice in celebration.
The shots ended up tied 40-40, with Murray making 37 saves and Hughson making 38 to extend his playoff record to 9-0.
It was the exact same scoreline as Game 1 of the 2013 AJHL Final between the same two teams, as the Bandits had a 2-0 lead that Spruce Grove came back to tie, before defenceman Maddison Smiley gave Brooks the dramatic 3-2 victory.
The two teams meet again right away for Game 2 of the series in Spruce Grove on Saturday night at 7:00 PM. Pre-game coverage begins on Q105.7 at 6:45.
Tyler King, Brook Bandits