ESTEVAN. SK (May 8, 2016) — The Brooks Bandits earned a spot in the 2016 RBC Cup national championship tournament on Sunday afternoon, downing the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion Portage Terriers 2-1 in the runner-up game of the Western Canada Cup.
Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) and Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON) had goals for the Bandits, while Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB) stopped 18 of 19 shots in net.
“I think we played pretty simple; we did what we needed to do against this team,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “They’re big; they’re physical; we needed to play a little different style tonight than we normally do. Some guys stepped up and played a heck of a lot of minutes, some guys didn’t, and I think that’s what a team’s all about.”
Off the start of the game, the Bandits found themselves back on their heels with a pair of Portage scoring chances from forwards left open in the slot. But on both occasions, goalie Garret Hughson made stellar saves to keep the affair scoreless.
With the Bandits on their third power play late in the 1st period, McKechney worked his way around a defender at neutral ice and carried into the Portage zone on a partial breakaway, tucking the puck on a backhand-to-forehand move past goalie Nathan Park to give the Bandits the opening lead.
In the second, Brooks capitalized on a Terrier error when Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) won a puck battle behind the Portage net, and centered the puck to a wide open Malott, who one timed the puck past Park to double the Bandit lead.
The Terriers replied before the end of the middle frame, though, with Braydon MacDonald tipping a point shot past Hughson to narrow the deficit to 1 after the second.
But after outshooting the Terriers 27-12 in the opening two periods, the Bandits held the Terriers to only 7 more shots in the third, for a 34-19 final tally. With a final faceoff in the Bandits zone with less than 4 seconds left, a final shot was blocked by Malott, and the Bandits swarmed goalie Hughson celebrating an impending trip to the national championship.
The Bandits will next take on the Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Trenton Golden Hawks to open their second RBC Cup tournament in franchise history. Puck drop is scheduled for this coming Saturday at 3:30 PM in Lloydminster.