The best season in Brooks Bandits history just keeps getting better.
After a record-setting regular season and their second consecutive Alberta Junior Hockey League championship, the Bandits locked up their first-ever trip to the RBC Cup, finishing second at the Western Canada Cup.
“It’s good to finally be there and accomplish that,” Brooks head coach Ryan Papaioannou told the Brooks Bulletin about qualifying for Canada’s National Junior A Championship.
From the time the first puck dropped to begin the 2012-13 season in late September, the Bandits have been in a class of their own, both in Alberta and across Canada.
Winner of its first 20 games – one shy of the AJHL record for consecutive victories – Brooks occupied the top spot on the CJHL Top 20 rankings for the final 22 weeks of the season, and was never lower than No. 2 once the season began.
The Bandits finished the campaign at 53-4-3, setting league records for wins and points in a season, and were far and away the leaders in goals for (62 more than second-place Whitecourt) and goals against (40 less than runner-up Okotoks).
Brooks got a scare in its AJHL semifinal against Okotoks, recovering from a 3-2 series deficit to win in seven hard-fought games, but disposed of Spruce Grove in five games to win its second straight league title.
“The league title this year wasn’t nearly the same (emotional high) as last year because we are focused on bigger goals,” Papaioannou told the Calgary Herald after beating the Saints. “I think our guys rebounded very quickly. I think we were back in the rink at 11 a.m. the next day for a meeting and a practice.”
Unlike 2012, when the Bandits had to face the eventual national champions from Penticton in the best-of-seven Doyle Cup, forcing arguably the two best teams in the country to face off for one spot at the national championship, the league title earned them a spot in the inaugural Western Canada Cup, which brought together the champions from Canada’s four western Junior A leagues – the BCHL, AJHL, SJHL and MJHL.
Brooks split its first two games against BCHL competition, beating Surrey before dropping a 7-2 decision to the host Nanaimo Clippers, but rebounded with wins over Yorkton and Steinbach to clinch top spot.
The first-place finish earned the Bandits two chances to advance to the RBC Cup, and they needed both after a 4-1 loss to Surrey in the 1-vs-2 playoff game that sent the Eagles directly to Summerside.
Brooks recovered the next day to blank Yorkton 1-0 and punch its ticket to P.E.I., with a second period goal from Mark Logan standing up as the winner thanks to a 23-save shutout from goaltender Michael Fredrick.
“They had trouble scoring on Freddy. He was really strong in net,” Papaioannou said of his goaltender in the win over the Terriers. “Once we got our goal, we just talked about having an overtime mentality where we couldn’t get scored on. Our guys locked it down and did the job.”
The Bandits, the first AJHL team to win its way to the RBC Cup since Camrose in 2008, will look to become the second consecutive team to win the national title after finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 in the CJHL Top 20; Penticton accomplished the feat last year.
HOW THEY GOT TO SUMMERSIDE
Alberta Junior Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Drumheller 4-1 (5-1, 7-5, 5-1, 2-3 OT, 7-0)
Semifinal: defeated Okotoks 4-3 (4-5 3OT, 2-1, 2-3 OT, 4-1, 3-5, 3-2 OT, 2-1)
AJHL championship: defeated Spruce Grove 4-1 (3-2 2OT, 5-1, 1-3, 3-1, 6-5 OT)
Western Canada Cup
Preliminary round: 3-1 – 1st place (defeated Surrey 4-2, lost to Nanaimo 7-2, defeated Yorkton 2-1 OT, defeated Steinbach 3-0)
Final: lost to Surrey 4-1
RBC qualifier: defeated Yorkton 1-0
Regular Season Record: 53-4-3 (1st in AJHL)
Goals For: 289 (1st in AJHL)
Goals Against: 113 (1st in AJHL)
Power Play: 95 for 318 (29.9% - 1st in AJHL)
Penalty Killing: 262 of 296 (88.5% - 1st in AJHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 20 (Sept. 14-Nov. 20)
Top 3 Scorers:
Playoff Record: 16-7
Goals For: 77
Goals Against: 54
Power Play: 18 for 101 (17.8%)
Penalty Killing: 86 of 98 (87.8%)
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
big body … great puck protection skills … reads the play well … good anticipation … very good reactions … strong shooter … better at creating than finishing … very difficult to contain
dangerous goal scorer … great hands … tremendous range and quickness … great speed … drives middle lanes with and without the puck … knows where to go to score … clutch scorer
smooth skater … offensive defenceman … a leader … excellent compete level … very good puck distribution skills … good shot … consistently gets shot on net … tremendous work ethic
Tanner Hicks – Manhattanville College (2013-14)
Patrick Lee – University of Massachusetts (2013-14)
Dakota Mason – Plattsburgh College (2013-14)
Chris Muscoby – University of Vermont (2013-14)
Anthony Paskaruk – Clarkson University (2014-15)
Anthony Petruzzelli – University of Vermont (2014-15)
Corey Scammon – University of Massachusetts Lowell (2013-14)
Maddison Smiley – University of Massachusetts (2014-15)