CALGARY, AB (October 26, 2015) – Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) scored his first career hat trick, while fellow rookie Matteo Aiello (Calgary, AB) scored his first two Junior A goals, and goaltender Troy Martyniuk (Winnipeg, MB) recorded his first AJHL win, as the Brooks Bandits (10-3-2) pulled away from the Calgary Mustangs (4-12-2) with a five-goal third period en route to a 7-2 road win at the Max Bell Centre on Monday night.
With the win, the Bandits leapfrogged the Okotoks Oilers (10-6-1) into second place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) South division, two points behind first-place Camrose with a game in hand on the Kodiaks.
“I thought we were great in the first, but just couldn’t finish,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “In the second, we were on the PK for ten minutes, which obviously takes the flow out of the game, and then in the third, I thought it was very similar to the first; we just finished our chances.”
The Bandits outshot Calgary by a whopping 64-30 margin on the night, beginning with 20 shots in the first period to 7 for the home side. The only goal came with 1:56 left in the frame, when Derek Lodermeier (Brooklyn Center, MN) jammed home a puck on a scramble in front of the Mustang net for his first goal in seven games, while also snapping a 22-powerplay streak in which the Bandits had not scored a man advantage marker.
In the second, McKechney scored his first of the night on a rebound just after a Jared Cockrell (Byfield, MA) post hit, doubling the lead at 3:27. But the Mustangs responded with a Sam Stormoen point shot goal on their first power play of the game at 7:54 to cut the deficit in half. The Mustangs would go on to receive four more power plays in the second period alone, but were still outshot 18-16 by Brooks in the middle frame.
In the third, the Mustangs began on the power play, and converted just 23 seconds in on a Brayden Uhrich backdoor tap in, coming moments after Bandits veteran Shane Bear was injured falling into the end boards; the Brooks alternate captain did not return to the game.
But less than two minutes after Calgary tied it, Cockrell reclaimed a Bandit lead when a Cale Makar (Calgary, AB) point shot deflected off of a stick and bounced into the Calgary slot, where Cockrell jammed the puck home for the eventual game-winning goal.
57 seconds after Cockrell, Aiello scored his first career goal when a Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) shot from the high slot bounced off the back of a Mustang defender, and came to Aiello at the side of the Calgary net for a quick one-time goal.
Just over a minute after that, McKechney got his second of the night when a perfect centering feed from Jesse Pereira (Fort Erie, ON) behind the Mustang net was one-timed home by the Edge School graduate at the top of the Calgary crease for a 5-2 lead.
Just before the halfway mark of the period, Aiello got his second when a low shot by Will Conley (Strathmore, AB) produced a perfect rebound, that #25 again one-timed home to make it 6-2.
“He’s been good every night,” said Papaioannou of Aiello. “He’s worked hard at it, and he’s been really good off the ice too in terms of academics.”
“Two simple plays, he’s in the right area, bangs a puck in, and he almost had one just like that against Canmore the other night, and I think a lot like Josh [McKechney], for him it’s some added confidence now that hopefully he can roll with,” the coach added.
Less than a minute later, Connor Vermeulen of the Mustangs attacked Bandit forward Nick Prkusic after a whistle, dropping his gloves and jumping the Brooks veteran. For his efforts, Vermeulen was assessed an instigating minor, fighting major, and game misconduct, giving the Bandits seven minutes of power play time. They would convert once, when McKechney carried the puck into the Calgary zone and drove his way to the slot, tucking a backhand shot past Calgary goalie Carter Seminuk for his first career hat trick and the 7-2 final score.
“He’s a good player, and honestly I think he’s one of the smartest players we have,” said Papaioannou of McKechney. “Probably one of the smartest ones we’ve had in a long time, and for him it’s just a matter of breaking through, getting the opportunity, and I think confidence goes a long way with a rookie.”
Martyniuk made 28 saves on 30 shots for the win, while Seminuk made 57 saves in the losing effort. The Bandits went 3 for 6 on the power play while Calgary went 2 for 7.
Brooks now prepares for a Friday night home game with the Camrose Kodiaks in a rematch of last year’s AJHL South Division Final. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM at the Centennial Regional Arena with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:45 on the home of the Bandits, Q105.7.