Bandits Cesana, Benson nominated for AJHL awards

BROOKS, AB (February 16, 2018) – Brooks Bandits captain Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) is one of four finalists for the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) Most Valuable Player Award, as well as its Outstanding Defenceman Award, the league announced today.

Bandits goaltender Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) was also named one of four finalists for the league’s Top Goaltender award.

It’s the first award nominations for either player in their two-year AJHL careers; Cesana was named to the league’s All-Rookie team for the South Division last season.

The Bandit captain, a Michigan State University commit, leads all AJHL defencemen in scoring, leads his team in scoring, and is the fourth-highest scoring player in the entire league with 65 points (12 goals, 53 assists) in 52 games played. He has broken his former teammate Cale Makar’s record for assists in a single season by a defenceman, and if he records three more assists this season, he will be the first AJHL defenceman to score 56 of them since the 1989-90 season.

The Bandits have previously won the MVP award three times; Cale Makar in 2016-17, Cam Maclise in 2012-13, and Jarret Granberg in 2008-09. Two Bandits have been named Outstanding Defenceman: Makar last season, and Linden Springer in 2014-15.

Benson, committed to Colgate University, is 16 minutes played away from entering the top-11 in AJHL history in minutes played in a single season, with 3,014 so far. He leads the league in wins by far with 38 on the season, with no other goalie in the league having won more than 25 games. His 2.19 goals against average ranks third in the league, while his .911 save percentage ranks seventh. It follows up a season for Benson in which he recorded the 6th-lowest goals against average and 9th-highest save percentage in AJHL history, but was not a Top Goaltender nominee.

Were Benson to win, he would be the first Brooks Bandits goalie to ever win the league’s Top Goaltender award.

The award winners are scheduled to be announced in the final week of the regular season.