BROOKS, AB (February 2, 2018) — The Brooks Bandits (36-11-1) picked up their 9th win in a row thanks to a hat-trick performance from forward Conner Jean in a 6-1 crushing of the Sherwood Park Crusaders (22-24-2) on Friday night at the Centennial Regional Arena.
Goaltender Mitchel Benson (Windsor, ON) made 22 saves on 23 shots for his league-leading 35th win of the year.
The win was the Bandits 12th win in a row at home, and the team is now a perfect 11-0 against North Division opponents this season.
Forward Simon Boyko (Mississauga, ON) opened the scoring nearly six minutes into the game, after defenceman Luke Bast (Red Deer, AB) forced the puck out of the defensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush for the Bandits. Boyko chose to shoot, and beat Crusaders goaltender Brandon Vogel from the right circle.
Brooks then made Sherwood Park pay for a double minor for high sticking. With under ten minutes to play in the period, forward Nathan Plessis (Salmon, BC) re-directed a Shane Bear (Calgary, AB) shot from the high slot off his skate on the powerplay and gave the Bandits a 2-0 lead.
The Bandits scored again on the same man-advantage, as Jean cleaned up a loose puck in front of the Crusader net following a rush by defenceman Dennis Cesana (Providence, RI).
Sherwood Park cut into the 3-0 Bandit lead less than a minute after the Jean goal, as forward Tyson Gruninger, who committed the double-minor infraction, skated in and scored from the right circle, the only goal the Bandits would allow.
Before the first period came to a close, Jean made it 4-1 after one-timing a Will Garin (Mound, MN) saucer pass with 2:14 left. It was Garin's first game since January 5, due to injury.
Jean's hat-trick goal came 7:18 into the second period. After shooting the puck off the end-glass, line-mate Nolan Thompson (Calgary, AB) grabbed the loose puck and put it on net. Vogel kicked the puck out to Jean, who had nothing but open net to bury his team-leading 25th goal of the year.
Fans at the CRA were treated to a spirited, lengthy bout as Thompson and Crusader forward William Zapernick went toe-to-toe at centre ice. After exchanging upper-cuts and punches, both left the ice to a loud cheer from the crowd.
The Bandits made it 6-1 with 1:55 left in the second period as forward Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) spun in front of the Sherwood Park net and scored to put the game out of reach.
There was no scoring in the third period as Brooks continued to shell Vogel, who made 20 saves in the frame.
The Bandits host the Whitecourt Wolverines tomorrow night in a rematch of last year's league final. It coincides with Mental Health Night, with the team auctioning off charity jerseys to support the Canadian Mental Health Association. Puck drops at 7:00 pm, with tickets available at tickets.brooksbandit.ca.