CAMROSE, AB (October 1, 2015) – The 2015 AJHL Showcase did not begin as planned for the Brooks Bandits (4-3), as the defending AJHL South Division champions dropped a 7-1 decision to the defending league champion Spruce Grove Saints (9-0) at the Max McLean Arena on Thursday night.
The Bandits, despite outshooting Spruce Grove 30-26, allowed three goals in the first, and two more in each of the second and third.
“We lack a ton of details, and we get excited about all the wrong things,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou after the game. “It’s just not a very good group at the moment.”
The game was out of hand early for the Bandits, who trailed 3-0 before the first period was three-quarters finished. Colton Leiter scored twice at the 7:22 and 11:36 marks before a long point shot by Connor James beat Bandits goalie Josh Davies (Guelph, ON) through traffic at 14:00. The Bandits only responded when Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ) fired a long wrist shot through traffic on a power play, beating Matthew Murray to get the Bandits on the board.
For McCrory, the point gave him his team-leading 12th in his 7th game, while snapping a streak of 21 power plays without a goal for Brooks.
“We gave them grade-A chances off the rush,” sad Papaioannou. “Two-on-ones, three-on-twos, we don’t have the ability to get a big save when we need one, and we can’t get to any second pucks.”
Riley Simpson and Tyler Busch added two more goals in the second on chances right at the net front, while Josh Harris and Ian Mitchell capped it off in the third with another slot chance and slap shot from the right faceoff circle, respectively.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bandits when Jesse Pereira (Fort Erie, ON) was called for a cross-checking major for hitting a Saint above the shoulders, which draws an automatic two-game suspension. Minutes later, Austin Wright was knocked out of the game on a knee-on-knee hit by Trey Fix-Wolansky of the Saints.
“Losing 7-1 in Bonnyville should have been enough of a wakeup call – losing at home to Okotoks should have been enough of a wakeup call,” said Papaioannou of his struggling team. “There’s obviously personnel things that have to change; tomorrow we’ll have a suspension and an injury, and a couple of young guys are going to get in and get opportunity, and hopefully they can make some good on it.”
The Bandits take on the RBC Cup host Lloydminster Bobcats on Friday afternoon at 3:30 PM. Pre-game coverage begins at 3:15 on the home of the Bandits, Q105.7.