BROOKS, AB (February 24, 2018) – Shane Bear (Calgary, AB) had three points, while Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) became the first AJHL defenceman since the 1989-90 season to score 56 assists, as the Brooks Bandits got by the Drayton Valley Thunder 7-4 in an offensive showcase on Friday night at the Centennial Regional Arena.
The Bandits battled back from a 2-1 first period deficit, scoring four consecutive goals in the second period en route to the victory, the first AJHL win for rookie goaltender Ryan Baker (Calgary, AB).
A Luke Bast (Red Deer, AB) slap shot at 6:56 on a 5-on-3 power play opened the score for Brooks, before the Thunder scored twice in the span of just over a minute, with a spinning slot wrister by Michael Boutoussov and a tipped point shot by Jesse Pomeroy giving the visitors the 1-goal advantage after 20 despite being outshot 11-9 in the first.
But the second was utter domination Brooks with the Bandits outshooting the Thunder 32-3 in the frame. Nic Hamre (Ottawa, ON) stole a puck in front of the Thunder net and flipped a quick wrister by goalie Shawn Parkinson to re-tie the game, before Bear scored the go-ahead goal on the ensuing shift on a top-shelf wrister from the high slot. At 8:01, Jake Theis tapped in a rebound of a Bast point shot, while Ryan Mahshie (Stoney Creek, ON) tapped in the eventual game-winner at the 15:09 mark after Nolan Thompson (Calgary, AB) had been denied on a wide open chance in front.
In the third, Drayton Valley pulled closer when Trevor Ayre scored from the left circle on a power play just 1:09 in. But Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) tapped in a backdoor feed from Cesana five minutes in on a power play for his 30th goal of the year. The helper by Cesana made him the first league defenceman to score 56 assists in a season since Tony Dalcin of the Calgary Canucks had 62 twenty-eight years ago. It’s the sixth-most assists for a defenceman in league history.
Ayre scored his second of the night at the 7:28 mark on a backhander off the rush to make it 6-4, and the Thunder pulled the goalie with just over two minutes left, but Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, BC) iced the game with an empty net breakaway goal at 19:30 to notch the 7-4 final score.
Baker made 16 saves for his first AJHL win. The Bandits went 2 for 7 on the power play and 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. They’ll next host the Spruce Grove Saints for a Saturday night showdown between the second and third best teams in the AJHL this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 PM on Real Country 105.7.