BROOKS, AB (December 31, 2016) – The Brooks Bandits (28-3-4) ended the calendar year with a 5-2 home win over the Olds Grizzlys on Saturday night, registering their sixth consecutive win in front of a season high crowd of 1,475 at the Centennial Regional Arena.
Oliver Chau (Oakville, ON) led the way with his first career Junior A hat trick, moving himself just three goals out of the league lead.
The visitors struck first at 5:06 on a Landon Gross shot from the right circle early on Olds’ first power play that deflected past Mitch Benson (Windsor, ON) to make it 1-0 for the Grizzlys.
But the Bandits responded with Chau’s first, his league-leading 15th power play goal of the season at 10:35, scored just 5 seconds into Brooks’ first power play when Chau tipped a Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) point shot.
Before the period was out, the Bandits took the lead on Chau’s second. Ty Mappin (Big Valley, AB) pinned the puck at the end wall with his teammates on a line change, and maintained possession despite being double-teamed by defenders. A fresh off the bench Prkusic threw a hit to give Mappin space to centre to Chau, who fired a shot five-hole on goalie Andrew Henderson to make it 2-1.
In the second, though, the Grizzlys got the only goal despite a 15-9 shot disadvantage, as Gross registered his second of the game on a top-right corner wrister from the left circle.
But Brooks pulled away in the third, outshooting Olds 21-7 for a 52-23 final tally and adding three more goals. First, after a Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) chance on a shot from the slot was denied by a sprawling Henderson, Chau was able to centre the puck to Mappin at the top of the crease, where the Brooks veteran chipped the puck over Henderson for the game-winning goal.
At the 11:18 mark, another end to end rush by Makar led to a wraparound try that deflected through the crease to a perfectly positioned Nic Hamre (Ottawa, ON), who jammed in a point blank goal and made it 4-2. With just under 4 minutes left, Chau sent the hats flying onto the ice at the CRA with a goal on a shot from the left circle, set up by a perfect backhand centering pass from the right corner by Kord Pankewicz (Drayton Valley, AB).
With the win, the Bandits move four points up on Whitecourt for first overall in the AJHL, with still 4 games in hand on the Wolverines. They’re next in action Friday night in Olds to take on the Grizzlys again, before returning home Saturday night to host the Canmore Eagles.