OKOTOKS, AB (April 4, 2017) – Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) stopped all 24 shots he faced, and the Brooks Bandits pounced on a first period misplay by goalie Riley Morris, adding two empty netters in a 3-0 win over the Okotoks Oilers on Tuesday night.
The win gives the Bandits a 3 games to 1 lead in the 2017 AJHL South Final, with Brooks able to clinch their fifth South title in the last six seasons with a victory in Game 5 at home on Friday night.
Brooks outshot Okotoks 14-5 in the first, but the only goal came on an uncharacteristic miscue by the Okotoks netminder. Morris controlled the puck behind his own net and flung a pass up his left wing; but forward Conner Jean (Oakland, MI) batted the puck out of mid air and, while falling to the ice, chipped a puck into the open Oiler net for the night’s eventual game-winning goal.
A sequence of point blank and spinning saves on a later first period power play by Okotoks, as well as a point blank pad save on Jordan Xavier in the third period, highlighted a masterful performance by Benson, who became just the second goalie in AJHL history to record 10 total shutouts in a season. Benson also has now recorded the 4th-most playoff shutouts in a season in league history, 1 short of the league record tied by Bandit goalie Garret Hughson last season. The clean sheet was also the Bandits’ 13th total shutout of the campaign, the 2nd-most in league history as well.
With Okotoks pressing late, the Oilers pulled their goaltender for a post-timeout faceoff with just under 90 seconds left in the game. But Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) won the puck back to Cale Makar (Calgary, AB), who floated a high arcing pass to the Oiler zone, which Parker Foo (Edmonton, AB) settled down and shot in from the left circle to make it 2-0.
Okotoks pulled the goalie and pressed again, but the Bandits held on and sealed the deal with a Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) shot from the redline that found the open Oiler cage as well.
The Bandits outshot the Oilers 41-24 in the game, with both teams going 0-for-3 on their respective power plays. Puck drop for the potentially decisive Game 5 is set for 7:00 PM on Friday night, with tickets available online at tickets.brooksbandits.ca. If the Bandits win, it would be the first time the team has clinched a series at home since the 2013 league final.