DRUMHELLER, AB (March 25, 2018) – The Brooks Bandits earned a spot in the Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division Final for the seventh consecutive year, after eliminating the Drumheller Dragons on Sunday night with a 6-3 win in Game 6 at the Drumheller Memorial Arena.
Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) opened the scoring just 11 seconds into the game, but the game remained tight until the final minutes, with Brooks outshooting the Dragons 27-21 in the game.
Vachon’s opener came on the first shift when he sped in along the left side and fired a perfectly placed wrist shot by the glove hand of Drumheller goalie Hunter Virostek. But the Dragons tied it before the period was out, with Brayden Nicholetts backhanding a low tipped shot between the pads of Bandit goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) to even things up.
Shots were tied 8-8 after the first, but the Bandits controlled puck possession in the second, outshooting the Dragons 12-4 and scoring twice. The first came on a power play at 12:09 when Ryan Mahshie (Stoney Creek, ON) fired a centering pass from the right corner that caught a Dragon’s skate and deflected by Virostek to give Brooks the lead back. Less than four minutes later, Conner Jean (Oakland, MI), recorded a point for the sixth straight game, firing a pass from neutral ice to a streaking-in Will Garin (Mound, MN), who sniped short side to put the Bandits up 3-1.
Drumheller pulled closer in the third, however, when Brett Edwards drove to the front of the net, was denied on a point blank chance, but backhanded the rebound by Benson to make it a one-goal game again.
Less than two minutes later, though, Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) fired home a goal from the left point to make it 4-2 and notch the eventual game-winning goal.
Team captain Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) slapped an important insurance goal in from the right circle at 9:22 to make it a 5-2 game, set up by Simon Boyko (Mississauga, ON) who recorded a point in his series debut.
After a too-many-men call against Brooks, the Dragons converted on a tipped centering pass by Tyler Kreklewich that Nicholetts knocked home to pull Drumheller back within 2 with more than six minutes remaining.
But Nolan Thompson (Calgary, AB) put an end to the Dragon comeback hopes with a wraparound goal at 17:11, giving Brooks the 6-3 lead.
The Bandits will next take on the Okotoks Oilers in the league semifinal, with Games 1 and 2 in Okotoks on Friday and Saturday nights. Extended pre-game coverage will begin on Real Country 105.7 at 6:30 PM both nights.
Tickets will be on sale for Games 3 and 4 in Brooks soon and will be available at tickets.brooksbandits.ca; fans wishing to access reserved Bandit seats for Friday and Saturday in Okotoks can phone the team office at (403) 501-0122 starting Monday morning.
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