BROOKS, AB (April 19, 2016) – It took four games, but finally a game of the 2016 Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) Final didn’t require overtime, as the Brooks Bandits took a commanding 3 games to 1 series lead with a 4-2 win in front of 1,833 fans at the Centennial Regional Arena on Tuesday night.
The game was not only the first recorded in regulation, but also the first of the series in which any team held more than a 1-goal lead at any point.
Bandit goaltender Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB) had to be sharp early, denying Austin Hunter on a wide-open one-timer in the slot in the opening minute of the game. Seconds after the save, the Saints were called for a high sticking double minor, turning the tide as the Bandits went to the power play.
The Bandits converted in the back half of that man advantage, when a Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) point shot caught Saint defender Dexter McLeod in the midsection on a shot block. As the defenceman hunched over in pain, it sprung Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON) for a quick rebound tap-in and a 1-0 Brooks lead.
The Bandits doubled the advantage at the 9:43 mark when Makar fired another point shot from the middle of the blue line that caught a Saint defender’s stick and ricocheted past Spruce Grove goaltender Matthew Murray.
But the Saints got on the board before the period was out when Jake Mykitiuk converted on a rebound at the side of the Bandit net. But despite a 14-6 Saint shot advantage in the opening frame, the Bandits held the early lead.
The tide gradually turned in the second as the Bandits outshot the Saints 12-7 and reclaimed the two-goal advantage at the 7:16 mark. Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) won a faceoff to defenceman Charlie Marchand (Calgary, AB) at the left halfboards of the Saints zone. His quick feed to the point was blasted through a screen, top shelf and in, by Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) to make it 3-1 Brooks.
In the third, the Bandits scored the quickest goal of the series when Malott fired a long pass to Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ) at the opposing blue line, who bolted past a Saint defender for a breakaway, and with a nifty forehand-to-backhand move slid the puck past Murray for a 4-1 Brooks lead.
The Saints drew closer when Cole Nicholson scored on a breakaway at 14:49 to pull even, but despite pulling Murray with just under five minutes left, could not solve Hughson again and now find themselves on the verge of elimination.
After an always-challenging four games in five nights stretch, the two teams will have two days off before reconvening in Spruce Grove for a potentially decisive Game 5 on Friday night in Spruce Grove. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM with pre-game coverage on Q105.7 beginning at 6:45.