BROOKS, AB (December 9, 2016) – The Brooks Bandits (23-3-4) scored 4 consecutive goals in the third period, rebounding from 1-0 and 2-1 intermission deficits to down the Bonnyville Pontiacs 5-2 in front of just under 1,200 fans at the Centennial Regional Arena on Friday night.
The win put the Bandits into first place overall in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), tied in points with the Whitecourt Wolverines but with 4 games in hand.
Bonnyville opened the scoring quickly, as a shot from the left-wing corner by Trygve Many Guns just 1:31 into the game snuck by goalie Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) for a 1-0 Pontiac lead, which held after the first period.
In the second, the Bandits had one of their most explosive periods of the year offensively – in every category but actual goals. They outshot Bonnyville 27-8 in the frame, yet could not beat goalie Sandro Silvestre, or in some cases the post. The loudest crowd groan of the night came when Ty Mappin (Big Valley, AB) had time to curl from the goal line around a sprawling Silvestre to the slot, but his turnaround shot hit the side of the net.
It wasn’t until the team’s 35th shot of the night that the Bandits finally broke through. A slapshot by Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI) from the right point was stopped through traffic by Silvestre; but forward Jacob Kamps (Pickering, ON) jammed the puck to the left side of the net where a waiting Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) scored his first Junior A goal and tied the game.
But just under three minutes later, after Jake Gresh rang the post behind Benson with a shot from the left circle, a point shot by Gen Bryshun deflected off of a Bandit defender’s stick and in to give Bonnyville the 2-1 lead after the second, despite Brooks outshooting them 37-16.
In the third, the Pontiacs held the shot lead 16-9, but the Bandits finally found the back of the net with regularity.
They tied the game just 1:11 into the period on a nifty rush by Mappin and Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON). Mappin drove to the slot and flicked the puck to the left wing for Chau, who returned it to Mappin in the slot for a quick tip past Silvestre and a 2-2 score.
On a Bandit power play, at the 6:17 mark, captain Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) flung a pass from his own goal line all the way to Chau at the Pontiac blue; the Bandit forward sped in on a breakaway and flipped a backhand shot over a sprawling Silvestre to give Brooks its first lead of the night, 6:17 into the third.
The Bandits got insurance from former Pontiac forward Parker Foo (Edmonton, AB), who followed up on a rebound produced by a Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) shot and one-handed a puck past Silvestre from the slot at 12:44 to make it 4-2 Bandits. Then, Foo deposited the empty net goal, chasing down a puck at the Pontiac line and weaving through two defenders into the slot with 7 seconds left, giving all fans in attendance a free Wendy’s cheeseburger as part of the Wendy’s Cheeseburger Challenge.
The Bandits now prepare to host the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday night at the CRA; the game is the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss in support of Scotiabank Smiles for Christmas, with fans urged to bring a bear or buy them on the concourse, and throw them on the ice when the Bandits score their first goal of the night.