BROOKS, AB (October 24, 2015) – The Brooks Bandits (9-3-2) of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) earned a measure of revenge at home on Saturday night, bouncing back from a 3-2 overtime defeat the night prior to the Canmore Eagles (9-7-1) by dispatching the visitors in the back half of a home-and-home series by a 4-2 final in front of 1,307 fans at the Centennial Regional Arena.
“I thought it was a way better game than last night,” said Bandits head coach and GM Ryan Papaioannou. “Our puck movement was improved – still not close to where it needs to be – but improved.”
The Eagles, playing without veteran defencemen Braiden Doucette and Jakob Lavoie, still held the Bandits off the first period scoresheet in an opening frame that saw a thin 8-7 Bandits shot advantage.
In the second, however, the Bandits beat goaltender Ryan Gilchrist twice in the span of just 40 seconds. First, Austin Wright (Niagara Falls, ON) scored just 1:41 in on a wrist shot from the right-wing circle. At 2:21, Jared Cockrell (Byfield, MA) backhanded a puck in front of the Canmore net that deflected off an Eagle defender and in on Gilchrist, who made the initial save. But Jesse Baird (Brampton, ON) charged into the slot and tapped the rebound into the back of the Canmore net to make it 2-0.
The Eagles, much as the Bandits had the night before, were able to battle back. First, Brett Radford backhanded a puck in from the side of the Bandits net on a powerplay at 5:52 of the second to cut the deficit in half. Then, on a scramble in front of the Eagle net, Nolan Kurylo got his first Junior A goal, knocking a loose puck past Bandits goaltender Josh Davies (Guelph, ON) to make it 2-2.
In the third, the Bandits outshot Canmore and scored twice to take the game. First, the eventual game-winner came when Hayden Ursulak (Calgary, AB) bounced a puck into the Canmore crease from the right faceoff circle that was redirected by defenceman Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) past Gilchrist to make it 3-2. A few shifts later, Ursulak was tripped up on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, but his backhand try was stopped by the left pad of the Canmore goaltender.
The Eagles pulled their goaltender for a late charge, but several key saves by Davies eventually led to a Kyler Nachtigall (Calgary, AB) empty net goal from the opposing blue line to give the Bandits the commanding 4-2 lead with 19 seconds left.
Davies made 15 saves on 17 Canmore shots while Gilchrist stopped 31 of 34 Bandit attempts. Brooks went 0 for 4 on the power play, while Canmore went 1 for 4.
The Bandits are next in action on Monday night taking on the Calgary Mustangs at the Max Bell Centre at 7:30 PM.
“It’s another team that I hope our guys don’t overlook,” said Papaioannou. “I know they’ve lost several in a row, but they’re a group that has got some offensive weapons, and you’re one bad night away from losing two points, so we’ve got to be sharp, ready to go, and we’ll be able to find ourselves climbing towards the top of the standings if we can get two points.”
Pre-game coverage starts at 7:15 PM on Q105.7.
Shoppers Drug Mart Player of the Game: #12 Jesse Baird
Boston Pizza Hardest Working Bandit: #14 Austin Wright