BROOKS, AB (April 15, 2017) – Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) stopped all 28 shots he faced on Saturday night, as the Brooks Bandits took a 2-0 series lead in the 2017 AJHL Gas Drive Cup Final with a 3-0 win over the visiting Whitecourt Wolverines in front of a crowd of 1,937 at the Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks.
Benson’s fourth shutout tied him for the league record for playoff shutouts, a record most recently tied by former Bandit goalie Garret Hughson in the 2016 playoffs as well.
Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal just 34 seconds into the game, when his shot off the rush from the left halfboards took a slight deflection off of a Whitecourt defenceman’s skate and slide five-hole on goalie Pierce Diamond for the only goal of the first.
But the Wolverines pressed hard in the second, playing perhaps their best period of the series; outshooting the Bandits 16-9 and nearly converting on several golden opportunities on their first power play. But Benson stood tall with some key saves, and the only goal of the frame came when a Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) point shot beat Diamond through a screen to give Brooks the 2-0 advantage.
In the third, the Wolverines seemed poised to get on the board with two power plays in the final minutes of the period. But on the final man advantage, Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) chased down a mishandled puck at the high slot of his own zone, sped by a Wolverine defender, and tucked a breakaway backhand shot around the left pad of Diamond to give the Bandits the commanding 3-0 lead with less than 3 minutes left.
The Bandits held on from there, outshooting the Wolverines in the final tally 29-28, with Brooks’ power play going 0 for 2 and Whitecourt going 0 for 4.
The teams will meet Monday night in Whitecourt for Game 3 of the series at the Scott Safety Centre, with Game 4 on tap for Tuesday night. Both games will begin at 7:30 PM with pre-game coverage beginning at 7:15 PM on Real Country 105.7.
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