COUGARS BEAT BANDITS, TAKE TOP SPOT AT RBC CUP
JASON LA ROSE
COBOURG, Ont. – Spencer Roberts and Brennan Roy had a goal and an assist apiece, sparking the Cobourg Cougars to a 5-2 win over the Brooks Bandits in the preliminary-round finale Thursday at the 2017 RBC Cup.
The victory means the Cougars finish atop the prelim standings, and will face the Penticton Vees in the first semifinal on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET). The Bandits finished second, and will meet the Cobras de Terrebonne in the second semi (7:30 p.m. ET).
It is the fourth time in eight years the host team has topped the preliminary-round standings. Of the first three, one (2015 Portage Terriers) won the national title, one (2010 Dauphin Kings) lost the final, and one (2012 Humboldt Broncos) fell in the semifinals.
Connor MacEachern, Jesse Baird and George Miranda had the other goals for the Cougars, while Brenden Locke added three assists. Stefano Durante made 25 saves to record his third win of the week.
Dennis Cesana and Luke Bast scored for Brooks, which rested a number of regulars, including reigning RBC Cup MVP Cale Makar, captain Nick Prkusic, and No. 1 goaltender Mitch Benson.
It is the first regulation-time loss for the Bandits since Feb. 25, a span of 26 games. They had posted 21 wins and an overtime defeat in their first 22 postseason games, a remarkable run of success.
Cobourg got the scoring started on the power play just past the midway mark of the first period; Locke fed Roy, who ripped a one-timer past goaltender Alex Horawski, who was making his first appearance since a win over the Calgary Mustangs on March 1.
The floodgates opened in the second period, with the teams combining for five goals.
MacEachern was first, corralling a bouncing puck and wiring a wrist shot over the glove of Horawski just 47 seconds into the period, but Dennis Cesana got a point shot through traffic and past Cobourg goaltender Stefano Durante to make it 2-1 at 1:22.
Luke Bast, a 16-year-old defenceman playing just his fifth Junior A game, tied it for Brooks at 5:57, beating a screened Durante through a maze of bodies.
But that would be it for offence for the Bandits.
Baird, who played for Brooks at the 2016 RBC Cup, gave Cobourg the lead back for good on the power play at 16:57, taking a pass in the slot from Locke and snapping a shot past Horawski, and Miranda knocked in the 4-2 goal less than two minutes later.
A pair of last-minute penalties in the second period gave the Bandits 60 seconds of five-on-three to start the third, but not only did Brooks not score, they fell into a three-goal hole.
Just seconds after the second penalty expired, Locke jumped out of the box and onto a loose puck, racing in on Horawski. His backhand was turned away, but Bandits defenceman Parker Huebner crashed into his goaltender, leaving Roberts with an easy tap-in to finish the scoring.
Roberts finished the preliminary round with four goals and three assists, good enough for a tournament-leading seven points.