CALGARY, AB (November 8, 2015) – Rookie defenceman Joe O’Connor (Hamden, CT) had a hat trick and four-point night as the Brooks Bandits (13-4-2) took down the Calgary Canucks (7-15-1) by a 9-2 final score at the Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Sunday afternoon.
Brooks’ previously-struggling power play converted 4 times on 11 opportunities, while the special teams also added a shorthanded goal for the first time since September, as the Bandits scored their second-highest goal total of the season so far.
With the win, the Bandits moved within 3 points of the Camrose Kodiaks for first place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) South division, with a game in hand.
For O’Connor, the three-goal night quadrupled his season total in goals on the year for the future University of Vermont Catamount.
“He’s obviously an offensive guy,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou. “He’s always up in the rush five-on-five, but he had an opportunity to make a couple of movies, and made two great shots on the power play, both went in, and we’d love to see more.”
O’Connor opened the scoring at the 4:27 mark, converting a backhand shot on a net front scramble set up by Kyler Nachtigall (Calgary, AB) to make it 1-0. At the 10:41 mark, Jared Cockrell (Byfield, MA) blazed into the Canucks zone off the bench and took a centering feed from Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, AB), lifting a wrist shot over goaltender Logan Drackett to make it 2-0, and extending his point streak to a team-high 8 games. With just under 7 minutes left in the period, sophomore forward Hayden Ursulak (Calgary, AB) was the recipient of a diagonal pass from Cale Makar (Calgary, AB), which he converted into a perfectly placed top-right corner shot from the left-wing faceoff circle to make it 3-0 and chase Drackett from the game.
In the second, Nachtigall extended the Brooks lead with a shorthanded goal at 4:49 set up by a nifty behind the back pass by captain Derek Lodermeier (Brooklyn Center, MN). Nachtigall’s breakaway backhander was the fifth goal by the Brooks penalty kill unit this season.
But the Canucks soon struck back with a long power play point shot by Allan MacPherson and a right-circle wrister by Austin Glenn with 30 seconds left in the period cutting the deficit to just two.
But the third period belonged to the Bandits, who outshot the Canucks 22-3 in the final frame en route to a 52-12 final count.
First, O’Connor scored his second of the game on a period-opening power play on a wrist shot low-glove side on Caiden Kreitz from the left-wing faceoff circle, after hesitating and working his way around a sliding Canuck defender. Less than two minutes later, Dylan McCrory (Kirkland, PQ) converted another net front scramble to make it 6-2. Before five minutes were gone in the third, O’Connor had his hat trick on another power play goal when he faked a slapshot at the blue line, skated in closer, and perfectly placed a wrist shot through traffic that beat Kreitz for a 7-2 lead.
With just over 12 minutes gone, a spinning wrist shot from the blue line by Austin Wright deflected off of a Canuck stick and into the back of the net for an 8-2 lead. A Hayden Ursulak deflection goal was waved off by the officials as an alleged high stick, but the Bandits would get their ninth goal nonetheless after two bench minors gave them a 5-on-3 power play, on which Charlie Marchand converted on a wrist shot from the slot to notch the 9-2 final.
“We were great in the first; we finished,” said Papaioannou. “We weren’t good in the second, and we told the guys we had to replicate the first period. I don’t really care what the score was going into the third; we needed to push forward, we needed to finish chances, and it was nice to actually score some power play goals consistently.”
Brooks now prepares for a home-and-home series with the Olds Grizzlys, in Olds on Friday night and back at home in Brooks on Saturday night. Both games start at 7:00 PM with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 PM on Q105.7.