BROOKS, AB (March 16, 2018) – Nic Hamre (Ottawa, ON) had a goal and two assists in his 2018 playoff debut, and the game-winning goal, as the Brooks Bandits downed the Drumheller Dragons 6-1 in the opener of their best of seven playoff series on Friday night at the Centennial Regional Arena.
Goaltender Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) posted his fourth straight win with a 26-save night, and had his lengthy shutout streak end at a whopping 211 minutes and 23 seconds, which, had it happened in the regular season, would have been the third-longest such streak in AJHL history.
After a back-and-forth start to the game, the Bandits broke through on their first power play of the game at the 9:35 mark when Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) blasted home a slap shot from the right point for his first goal and point of the postseason.
Hamre’s game-winner came with just over two minutes left in the period, when Jean dropped a pass back to the top of the right circle, and the Bandit alternate captain fired a top shelf shot past Drumheller goalie Hunter Virostek, who was screened by Hamre’s teammate Will Garin (Mound, MN). Brooks held a 2-0 lead after one despite being outshot 11-8.
In the second, it again took until the latter stages of the period for a scoring breakthrough. At the 11:43 mark, Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) flung a pass to the slot from the half-wall that Jake Theis (Chanhassen, MN) collected in the slot. Rather than shoot, however, Theis swept the puck blindly to Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) at the left side of the net, who deflected the puck past Virostek to make it 3-0 Bandits.
With time running down in the second, Brandon Scanlin (Hamilton, ON) collected a pass from Hamre at the half-wall and fired a high slot wrister over the glove hand of Virostek to give Brooks a 4-0 lead after two.
Entering the third, the Dragons switched goalies, giving Dane Dow an opportunity in net. But the Bandits put together perhaps their best effort of the game, outshooting the Dragons 13-8 and extending their lead. At 16:22, Mack Hancock (Kingston, ON) fed a pass from the high slot to a wide open Louis Jamernik (Calgary, AB) at the net front, who slid a quick backhand feed by Dow to make it 5-0.
Seconds later, though, Derrick Budz one-timed in a shot from the low slot to spoil Benson’s shutout bid, scoring the first goal that the Bandit goalie had allowed since the second period of Game 1 of the playoffs against Canmore.
But Brooks capped off the scoring with 2:09 left when Vachon won a faceoff to Plessis, who drove to the slot around a check and ripped a wrister past the glove hand of Dow to notch the 6-1 final score.
The Bandits outshot Drumheller 31-27 in the game, going 1 for 3 on the power play and a perfect 2 for 2 on the penalty kill. The two teams meet for Game 2 on Saturday night at the CRA with puck drop scheduled for 7:00 PM and tickets available online at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.