BROOKS, AB (November 19, 2016) – For the first time this season, the Brooks Bandits (17-3-3) were outshot in a game, but a 38-save performance by goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) boosted Brooks to a 4-1 road win in Whitecourt on Saturday night over the AJHL’s #1-ranked team, the Whitecourt Wolverines (19-6-3).
The win keeps the Bandits in sole possession of first place in the AJHL’s South division, 2 points ahead of the Calgary Canucks with 3 games in hand. A loss by Fort McMurray tonight also means that the Bandits can take first overall in the AJHL simply by winning its games in hand on North division teams, most of whom have played more games.
A furious flurry of Whitecourt scoring chances in the first tested Benson early, but the Brooks netminder was perfect in a period in which the Wolverines outshot the Bandits 13-8. In the final minute, Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) entered the Whitecourt zone along the left side and flung a pass to Brett Clayton (Abbotsford, B.C.) in the high slot. His one-timer beat goalie Liam McCloskey on the glove side for his first goal as a Bandit to give Brooks the unlikely first-period lead.
The Bandits doubled the lead on the first shift of the second period when Nic Vlahos (Mississauga, ON) potted a rebound goal from the left side of the Whitecourt net just 16 seconds into the middle frame. Just over four minutes later on a Brooks power play, Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) one-timed his league-leading 12th power play goal in from the slot to give the Bandits the 3-0 advantage.
Whitecourt drew closer in the third just over halfway through on a 5-on-3 power play when Colton Meekhof beat Benson on a screened point shot. The goal ended a shutout streak of 149 minutes and 16 seconds for Benson, who hadn’t allowed a goal since last Friday in Canmore, and who has only now allowed 2 goals in his last 3 starts.
With Whitecourt pressing, the Bandits got a vital goal to seal the win on a late power play when a Dennis Cesana point shot rang the post, but Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) potted the rebound goal from the crease area to give Brooks the 4-1 advantage.
The Bandits are next in action Friday night when they welcome the Canmore Eagles to the Centennial Regional Arena. Tickets are available online at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.