BROOKS, AB (September 2, 2015) – It seemed unlikely that the Brooks Bandits would top their 11-1 pre-season opening win over Drumheller. It seemed even less likely after a fairly even first period with the Kindersley Klippers, and a narrow 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
But an eight-goal second period will go a long way towards achieving the unlikely.
The Bandits lit the lamp 11 times in front of a boisterous exhibition crowd of 1,094 at the Centennial Regional Arena on Wednesday night, defeating their Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League rivals behind a 21-shot shutout from rookie goaltender Andrew Tucci (Toronto, ON), and four goals from sophomore forward Jeff Malott (Waterdown, ON).
Malott’s opening goal at the 9:06 mark stood up as the game winner, as a scramble in front generated by rookie Leif Mattson (Stonewall, MB) and veteran Shane Bear (Calgary, AB) led to a quick tap-in goal.
With a 12-8 shot lead, the Bandits appeared in control, but truly turned on the jets in the middle frame.
Outshooting the Klippers 21-6, the Bandits took only 78 seconds before Malott scored his second after being denied on an excellent drive to the net; Austin Wright (Niagara Falls, ON) kept the play alive in front of the net, allowing Malott to recover and pot the Bandits’ second goal.
Only 50 seconds later, WHL veteran Logan Aasman (Medicine Hat, AB) was the recipient of a perfect and patient 2-on-1 pass from Wright, and made a nifty forehand to backhand move, lifting a top-shelf shot into the back of the Kindersley cage to make it 3-0.
Less than two minutes later, Malott began a span of two goals in only 23 seconds. First, a perfect centering pass from Jared Cockrell (Byfield, Mass.) led to another one-timer goal, and secondly, a point shot from rookie Jarrod Gourley (Calgary, AB) led to a net-front tip by Malott for his fourth.
The goals continued to come quickly. 39 seconds later, Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB) made a spin move in the corner and drove to the front of the Kindersley net, scoring on a point blank opportunity. Only 1:34 after that, Josh McKechney (Calgary, AB) made it 7-0 on a power-play one-timer off of a great diagonal pass from Bear.
Less than three minutes after that, Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ) joined the goal parade with a similar goal to Aasman’s, receiving the puck alone in front and going forehand to backhand, lifting the puck in glove side on a setup from Prkusic. 2:06 after that, goal number nine came courtesy of a Shane Bear drive to the net off of a faceoff win, stuffing the point blank chance in for his fourth point of the night.
In the third, the Bandits reached double digits only 24 seconds in on Josh McKechney’s second of the night, a sharp angle shot from the right side of the Kindersley net. At 5:41, Cale Makar drove to the net from the blue line, weaving around a couple of Klipper defenders before sweeping a puck around a sprawling goaltender for the 11-0 final.
“I thought we made some better plays, we did a better job getting the puck to the net, and that’s what we worked on in practice this week,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou.
The coach had some expected praise for Malott’s four-goal night, and its reflection on his potential come the regular season.
“His first two goals, he’s just jumping on pucks in front of the net,” the coach noted. “As a big guy, he’s going to have to score goals like that. But then he makes some plays, and finishes off some nicer ones, and he’s going to have to be a big contributor for us offensively.”
“Tonight he showed that he can make plays through neutral, and obviously in front of the net.”
The Bandits will hit the road immediately, heading to Penticton, British Columbia, to take on the defending BCHL and Western Canada Cup champion Vees in a back-to-back exhibition series on Friday and Saturday nights.
“The pace we play at needs to be much higher if we want to be – not even dominant – just a good team,” the coach noted. “We’ve got to be much faster through transitions; our neutral zone is really slow, and that’s the biggest thing right now for us, is just trying to push the pace, get guys up the ice, and that’s what we’re going to keep talking about.”
Both games in Penticton will be broadcast live on Q1057.ca with a video stream also available on FastHockey.com. Game times (locally in Brooks) are 7:45 PM Friday and 6:45 PM Saturday.