ESTEVAN, SK (May 1, 2016) – Despite 13 penalty kills, and only 4 power plays in the opening 59 minutes of play, the Brooks Bandits (1-0) took their opening game at the 2016 Western Canada Cup 4-2 over the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) champion West Kelowna Warriors (1-1) on Sunday afternoon.
The game was capped off with a near-melee in the Bandits zone as goaltender Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB) was cross-checked in the head by West Kelowna captain Kyle Marino, leading to a fight between the two handily won by the Brooks netminder. Earlier, Bandit captain Derek Lodermeier had been ejected from the game after being assessed a game misconduct and major penalty for knocking down West Kelowna goalie Matthew Greenfield behind the Warriors’ net.
The Bandits opened the scoring at the 3:11 mark of the game when a Jesse Baird (Brampton, ON) point shot beat Greenfield through a screen for the Bandits’ first goal of the tournament.
But West Kelowna took the lead before the period was out. First, Brett Mennear snuck a wrist shot past Hughson short side from the left-wing faceoff circle to tie the game up. Then, with just a minute left in the period, and with the Warriors on their fifth power play of the opening period, a turnover in the Bandits’ zone led to a cross-crease pass to Quin Foreman, who snuck it into an open Bandits net for a 2-1 advantage after 20 minutes.
Despite a 6-2 power play advantage for the Warriors after the first, the Bandits had outshot West Kelowna 13-12. In the second, the Bandits tied the game when a Tristan Thompson (Canmore, AB) shot was handled by Greenfield, but the rebound deflected off of Warrior defenceman Scott Allan and into his own net to make it a 2-2 game.
The parade of power plays for the Warriors began soon after, highlighted by Lodermeier’s major for running into Greenfield while the Warrior netminder had the puck behind his own net. But two separate 5-on-3 opportunities were killed off during that major, as the Bandit penalty kill unit somehow killed off all 4 penalty kills in the second.
Brooks then got a rare power play opportunity late in the second, and only six seconds into that man advantage, Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) fired a shot through a screen past Greenfield to give Brooks the one-goal lead.
Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) was called for roughing at the end of the second period, giving the Warriors yet another power play when the third began. But at the tail end of the power play, Jared Cockrell (Byfield, MA) sped into the West Kelowna zone on a shorthanded opportunity. His high centering pass bounced perfectly to Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON) at the top of the West Kelowna crease, and his quick tip beat Greenfield to give Brooks a commanding 4-2 lead.
The Bandits killed off two more Warrior power plays in the third, and withstood a flurry of pressure when the Warriors pulled Greenfield with more than three minutes left. But after the BC champions’ chances were dashed when Kylar Hope was called for roughing on a light after-whistle shove on a Bandit with 24 seconds left, the Warriors sent their backup goalie, Keelan Williams, into the game.
Off the next faceoff, Marino skated directly into Hughson, bumping him at the side of his net. The Warrior captain then turned and slashed the Brooks goalie, cross-checked him in the head, and dropped the gloves for the quick skirmish. Marino was called for roughing, slashing, as well as majors for cross-checking and fighting, and given a game misconduct. Hughson received a five minute fighting penalty, two-minute roughing call, and game misconduct, with Josh Davies (Guelph, ON) coming in for the final 10 seconds of the game.
Thankfully, those final seconds were uneventful, as the Bandits held on for the convincing 4-2 win and were only outshot by a narrow 38-34 margin despite the immense power play advantage by the Warriors.
The Bandits will next take on the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Melfort Mustangs on Monday night at 7 PM, once again at Affinity Place in Estevan. Pre-game coverage will begin at 6:30 PM on the home of the Bandits, Q105.7.