BROOKS, AB (January 22, 2016) – The Brooks Bandits (35-6-2) became just the sixth team in the history of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) to win seventeen consecutive games, downing the impending RBC Cup host Lloydminster Bobcats by a 5-3 score in front of a season-high 1,704 fans at the Centennial Regional Arena on Friday night.
The Bandits, playing without captain Derek Lodermeier (Brooklyn Center, MN) who was suspended two games for a non-penalized shoulder-on-shoulder hit in the team’s last game against the Okotoks Oilers, nonetheless put together one of their best starts of the season, scoring four times in the opening twenty minutes.
First, Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ) collected a puck behind the Bobcat net; but instead of wrapping it around the far side, the quick and agile forward cut in front on the short side and backhanded the puck past Lloydminster goalie Alex Leclerc to make it 1-0.
Just over four minutes later, after a bench minor penalty to Lloydminster gave the Bandits a 5-on-3 advantage, Jared Cockrell (Byfield, MA) stuffed one home from the left side of the net to make it 2-0. At the 15:10 mark, Shane Bear (Calgary, AB) fired a blast from the left point that took a slight deflection, and caught the shoulder of Leclerc, slipping past him and into the Bobcat net to make it 3-0.
Finally, on another power play, McCrory’s right circle pass through the slot found a backdoor Cockrell who one timed the puck past Leclerc to make it a 4-0 game and tie himself for fifth in the AJHL in goals with 24 on the season.
The Bandits outshot Lloydminster 14-10 in that key first, but were outshot 13-6 in the second, and nearly allowed the opening goal when a Bandit defender covered a puck in the crease, leading to a penalty shot opportunity for newly acquired Bobcat Ryan Chynoweth. But his backhand to forehand move resulted in a key pad save for Garret Hughson (Foremost, AB), who kept it a 4-0 game.
The Bobcats finally beat Hughson on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush at the 15:54 mark of the middle frame, when Morgan Messenger saucered a perfect pass in front for a net front deflection by Kris Spriggs that found the top right corner and got the Bobcats on the board.
In the third, Spriggs scored his second of the night on a one timer from the slot, set up by a pass from behind the net once again by Messenger, only 1:17 in. But just under halfway through, on another Bandit power play, Tristan Thompson (Canmore, AB) had a high slot wrister denied, but Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) drove to the front of the net and jammed the rebound past Leclerc to make it a 5-2 game.
Lloydminster drew closer less than 2 minutes later when Spriggs banked a puck off of a Bandit defender on a shot from the right corner, beating Hughson to make it 5-3 with his hat trick goal, but it would be as close as the Bobcats would come.
The Bandits outshot the Bobcats 14-13 in the third, but Lloydminster held the 36-34 shot advantage for the game. Hughson stopped 33 of 36 shots to move his record in the AJHL to 6-0, while Leclerc stopped 29 of 34. Brooks was 3 for 7 on the power play while the Bobcats were 1 for 4.
Brooks travels to Camrose tomorrow night for their first meeting with their key divisional rivals since November 21st. The Bandits take on the Kodiaks beginning at 7 PM, with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 on Q105.7.
Shoppers Drug Mart Player of the Game: #21 Dylan McCrory
Boston Pizza Hardest Working Bandit: #16 Jared Cockrell