After disappointing finishes a season ago, the Brooks Bandits and Trenton
Golden Hawks are back.
Both teams lost out in the semifinals at the 2016 RBC Cup in Lloydminster,
but have returned with their sights set on redemption, and the two wins
they didn’t get in the Border City.
“Being on that team last year, it left a sour taste in all of our mouths,”
said Brooks captain Nick Prkusic, one of seven returnees for the Bandits.
“I think we had the team to do it last year and we just didn’t get it
The Bandits have dominated on the way to Cobourg, going 51-5-4 in the
regular season and 17-1 in the playoffs to claim AJHL and Western Canada
Cup titles. With that momentum, they are ready to finish what they started
“I think it was a tough way to go out last year and we have some unfinished
business,” said Bandits head coach and general manager, Ryan Papaioannou.
“We have a lot of guys moving on to college after this season, so it is
that ‘last chance’ mentality and we are going to make the best of it.”
With the experience of a previous RBC Cup appearance, their journey to get
back to Canada’s National Junior A Championship has given the Bandits a
sharper focus on what they need to do to be successful.
“It is huge for us to have that experience. Those guys suffered a loss last
year that was tough to swallow,” said Papaioannou. “For our returning
players, they wanted to carry that winning culture forward. We want to
prove some things.”
As for the Golden Hawks, they set the bar high this season and are ready to
chase their ultimate goal. After reaching Game 7 of the OJHL final, Trenton
claimed the Dudley Hewitt Cup on home ice, becoming the first team since
1994 to successfully defend the Central Region championship.
With confidence in their team, and having already faced adversity, the
Golden Hawks are ready.
“We’ve had a successful season, but we battled injuries and some roster
changes throughout the year and I think that has made us stronger as a
unit,” said co-captain Josh Allan. “We will continue to battle adversity
here at the RBC Cup … it’s something we are used to. We are ready to
compete for what we want.”
After watching his team drop the semifinal to the host Bobcats last year,
despite topping the preliminary round standings, the challenge for Trenton
head coach Jerome Dupont is to harness the energy of his team when it
“The season is full of ups and downs and we try and keep everything as
level as possible,” explained Dupont. “The key is to pace yourself. I think
if there is balance between playing and downtime, you will be more
successful. We discussed what happened last year and will be doing some
things differently … hopefully that helps us reach our goal.”
Allan is one of 10 returnees for the Golden Hawks and thinks having that
veteran presence, and the experience of a previous run to the final four
will help during the tournament.
“Last year, we experienced it all for the first time. We were nervous and
didn’t know what to expect. This year, we know what it is like and how to
feel during the tournament,” he said. “Those veterans add a lot to the room
and we know what we are doing and that we belong here. It is good to have
that experience in the room.
As the Bandits and Golden Hawks return to chase a national title, players
don’t have to look too far to find what it feels like to win; both head
coaches have RBC Cup championships on their résumés – Papaioannou in 2013
with Brooks, and Dupont in 2007 with the Aurora Tigers.
In the lead up to the tournament, they shared some of their wisdom with
“We watched a bit of video of that  championship just to see what it
was like as the minutes and seconds ticked down,” said Papaioannou. “The
biggest thing we have been able to share as a staff is just to stay in the
week – you don’t have to win every game, you just need to play your best
hockey on the weekend. So we are cognizant of how long these 10 days will
be, but want them to enjoy the experience.”
“[Winning] is not easy,” Dupont said. “I told them to savour the moment.
Just being here is a great honour. We aren’t just happy to be here, but it
is exciting. It is important to take it all in and enjoy it by taking it
one day at a time.”