BROOKS, AB (February 3, 2017) – A crowd of just under 1,400 at the Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks saw the host Brooks Bandits (40-4-4) bounce back from a Wednesday road loss to the Calgary Canucks, scoring early and often in a 7-1 rout of the visiting Drumheller Dragons (20-25-4) on Friday night.
The Bandits iced a roster without captain Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) or AJHL top scorer Ty Mappin (Big Valley, AB), due to injury and suspension respectively, and found themselves dressing two defencemen as forwards to ensure a full lineup.
Nonetheless, the Bandits took an early advantage in the first, beginning with a Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) wraparound goal at the 6:19 mark off a faceoff. With just under 4 minutes left in the period, Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) sent a puck from the left circle to Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) at the top of the crease, who quickly shoveled it past Drumheller goalie Hunter Virostek to make it 2-0.
In the 2nd, the Bandits extended their lead when Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) tipped a Makar point shot for a 3-0 Brooks lead. But Drumheller got on the board when Brady Risk fired a high shot from the high slot past goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON), but it would be the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night for the Bandit netminder.
Brooks reclaimed the three-goal lead late in the 2nd in highlight reel fashion, when Makar and Vincenzo Renda (Montreal, PQ) connected on passes to spring David D’Agostino (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON) on a breakaway; the defenceman-turned-forward cut in on Virostek and poke checked the puck between his pads and into the goal to make it 4-1.
The Bandits scored off the opening draw in the third period when Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C..) fluttered a puck to the net front for Nic Vlahos (Mississauga, ON) to deposit home just 11 seconds in. Just over four minutes later, Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) collected his own rebound at the left side of the Drumheller net and fired home his first goal of the season. Lastly, a McKechney power play pass from the right corner found Cesana in the slot for a one-time wrist shot goal and a 7-1 final score.
The Bandits outshot the Dragons 40-21, going 2 for 7 on their power play and a perfect 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.
Brooks now needs only 1 win (or loss by Okotoks and the Calgary Canucks) to clinch the AJHL South. The team’s next game is in Camrose on Tuesday night, taking on the Kodiaks at 7:00 PM with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 on Real Country 105.7.