SPRUCE GROVE, AB (October 17, 2015) – Shane Bear (Calgary, AB) scored the dramatic game-tying goal in the third, but it wasn’t enough for the Brooks Bandits (8-3-1), who fell in a shootout to the league-leading Spruce Grove Saints (14-2) at the Grant Fuhr Arena on the road Saturday night.
The Bandits, coming off of a 3-0 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder the night previous, held the AJHL’s number one offence off the scoresheet more than most, becoming the first team to hold the Saints to just one goal.
“I think we came in, played a good hockey team, and at least proved to ourselves that we are a good hockey team,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “We compete with the top groups in the league.”
A scoreless and even first period saw the Saints leading the shot count 11-10. The Bandits dominated the second in shots 16-7, but the Saints were the only team to score, when a Connor James slap shot from the left point beat Josh Davies (Guelph, ON) through traffic to make it 1-0.
In the third, the Saints dominated puck possession, but much as the Saints did in the second, the Bandits made the most of their limited chances, tying the game at 12:52 when a Shane Bear point shot rang the post and slid into the Saints net through a screen set up by captain Derek Lodermeier in front of starting goalie Matthew Murray.
The game headed to overtime where a penalty against the Bandits set the Saints up for a 2-minute 4-on-3 powerplay; but the Bandits PK unit stood tall, killing off the penalty and forcing a shootout. Overall, the Bandits PK went 5 for 5 on the night, perfect for the sixth consecutive game, while Brooks went 0 for 3 on the power play.
“The desperation level was higher, and we had a lot more urgency to our game, defensively,” said Papaioannou. “I still think we made a lot of mistakes which our group would agree with, but at the end of the day we held Spruce Grove to a goal, got the late one to tie it up, and had the opportunity to win the game in a shootout, so we’ve got to be happy with how it went but at the same time looking forward to getting these guys in Brooks.”
In the shootout, Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) and Jake Mykitiuk both hit the post in the first round. Kyler Nachtigall (Calgary, AB) scored on a low wrister to put the Bandits ahead, but Colton Leiter tied it immediately thereafter on a deke around Davies. Bear and Jack Hamly were both stopped in round 3, and the game was decided in the fourth round when Derek Lodermeier (Brooklyn Center, MN) was stopped by Murray’s pad, and Brandon Biro tucked a backhander past Davies to give the Saints the extra point.
Davies made 35 saves on 36 shots while Murray made 28 saves on 29 shots.
Next up for the Bandits is a home and home series with the Canmore Eagles, beginning in Canmore Friday night, and concluding in Brooks at the Centennial Regional Arena on Saturday night.
“I think there were some guys who were out of the lineup who deserve to get back in, and earn their spot,” said Papaioannou of likely lineup changes for that series.
Both games can be heard on Q105.7 with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45.