MINERVA SCORES IN OVERTIME, COUGARS WIN RBC CUP
JASON LA ROSE
COBOURG, Ont. – Nick Minerva was the overtime hero, scoring 8:21 into the extra period, and the Cobourg Cougars erased a late deficit to edge the Brooks Bandits 3-2 and win the 2017 RBC Cup on Sunday night.
Off a won face-off in the offensive zone, Minerva took a pass from Matt Bumstead and absolutely wired a one-timer past Brooks goaltender Mitch Benson, setting off a raucous celebration at the jam-packed Cobourg Community Centre.
The Cougars are the ninth host team to claim Canada’s National Junior A Championship since the start of the tournament format in 1985, and the second in three years, joining the 2015 Portage Terriers.
Brooks held a wide advantage in shots on goal in the first period, 13-4, but the game went to the first intermission tied at a goal apiece.
Cobourg struck first, with Jamie Huber jumping on a turnover in the Brooks zone and playing give-and-go with Connor MacEachern before beating Benson to make it 1-0 before the clock hit four minutes.
That ended a lengthy shutout streak for Benson, who had not allowed a goal in more than 169 minutes.
Conner Jean pulled the Bandits even less than five minutes later on the power play, whacking a backhand past Cobourg netminder Stefano Durante after a scramble in front of the Cougars goal.
Durante was the story in a scoreless second period, making 13 more saves and keeping the Bandits at bay on a trio of power-play opportunities, sending the game to the final frame even 1-1.
Brooks took its first lead at 8:31 of the third period; Cale Makar kept the puck in at the blue-line and worked it down low to captain Nick Prkusic, who spun into the slot and jammed it past Durante for the 2-1 goal.
It looked like that goal was going to stand up as the title-winner, and the Cougars put Durante in the bench in the dying seconds in search of a last-gasp equalizer.
With Cobourg working the puck around the Bandits’ zone, Brennan Roy threw the puck towards the net, where Ryan Casselman – the Cougars’ leading point-getter during the regular season, who had yet to score in the tournament – redirected it past a screened Benson to tie the game with just 68 seconds to go and set up the heroics from Minerva.
Durante capped an impressive tournament with a 41-save performance; he played every second for the Cougars, fashioning a 2.64 goals-against average and .940 save percentage, stopping 172 of 183 shots.
The Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League will host the 2018 RBC Cup from May 12-20.