BLACKFALDS, AB (December 31, 2021) – The Brooks Bandits first game since the Christmas break was also their final test of 2021, doubling up the Blackfalds Bulldogs 6-3 on Friday at the Eagle Builders Centre for the team’s 14th straight win.
The game marked the first visit to the new arena for the Bandits (34-1-1), who haven’t lost in regulation in 34 straight games going back to September 18. Brooks remains in first place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, 10 points ahead of 2nd place Spruce Grove.
Bandits forward Dario Beljo tapped in a TJ Hughes (Merychurst) left circle shot on the powerplay to give Brooks an early 1-0 lead just 83 seconds into the game. But Blackfalds would tie at 7:38 after forcing a Bandit turnover, leading to a Jason Siedem shot that beat Bandits starter Ethan Barwick top left corner. However, less than a minute later, the Bandits retook the lead as captain Ethan Lund (Niagara) fired in a left circle shot at 8:14. Brooks increased the lead to 3-1 at 13:11 as forward Ethan Mercer tipped in a Zach Bookman (Merrimack) point shot. Shots were 16-6 Bandits in the 1st period.
Brooks increased the lead to 4-1 at the 5:59 mark of the 2nd period, as Hughes one-timed a behind-the-net pass from linemate Ryan McAllister (Western Michigan) for his AJHL-leading 38th of the year. Mercer would score his second of the game less than two minutes later on a shot from the right circle that went off the Bulldogs starter Lucas Massie and into the net to make it 5-1. But before the period ended, Bulldogs captain Brett Meerman fired in a right circle shot on the powerplay to cut the lead to 5-2. Shots 12-8 Bandits in the period.
Blackfalds would draw within two at the 8:36 mark of the 3rd period. Meerman scored his second of the game on a left-circle shot to make it 5-3. However, with under three minutes to go, the comeback was stifled as Bandits forward Nicholas DeGraves was fed a corner pass and fired in a right circle goal to make it 6-3, the final. Shots in the 3rd were 12-6 and 40-20 Brooks overall.
The Bandits open 2022 at home with a New Year’s Day clash with the Calgary Canucks. Game time is 4:00 pm at the Centennial Regional Arena.