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Bandits begin road to nationals
Early-season success has Brooks atop CJHL national rankings
Jason La Rose
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October 17, 2018
|

One month into the 2018-19 season, and the Brooks Bandits are back in familiar territory – atop the Alberta Junior Hockey League standings.

The Bandits, who will welcome the nation as hosts of Canada’s National Junior A Championship next spring, have run off 11 consecutive wins after a season-opening setback, and this week ascended to the No. 1 spot in the CJHL Top 20 national rankings.

Brooks is no stranger to the top of the AJHL; the last time it finished outside the top three in the regular season was 2010-11, and the last seven years have included three regular-season titles, four playoff crowns and a national championship in 2013.

But the long journey to May 11 began with a sizable speed bump – the Bandits went on the road to Drumheller in mid-September and suffered an 11-3 loss to the Dragons, their largest regular-season defeat since November 2008.

They righted the ship with a convincing 9-3 win over the Calgary Canucks two nights later and haven’t looked back, outscoring their opponents 53-24 since opening night.

“After the first game we kind of had a little meeting, and we talked about how much we have to work harder and how much this league is going to be harder this year,” veteran forward Arnaud Vachon told ChatNewsToday.ca. “That's basically what we've been doing, every shift we've been pushing hard, every line has been going, and it's been working out.”

Vachon is one of four Bandits – alongside Luke Bast, Nathan Plessis and Jake Theis – who were part of the team that reached the national championship game in 2017, giving back a late lead before falling in overtime to the host Cobourg Cougars.

A guaranteed spot in the national tournament means a guaranteed shot at redemption for the quartet.

“It's unreal, especially for some of the guys here two times in three years,” he said. “It's a huge opportunity for us to show how Brooks is good.”

The Bandits have rolled over their roster from 2017-18 with 15 new additions in the line-up, including a familiar name for Brooks fans – Taylor Makar, the younger brother of two-time national championship MVP (and World Juniors gold medallist) Cale Makar.

It has been Plessis and Quebec import William Lemay doing the heavy lifting early with 15 points apiece, while Pierce Charleson has grabbed the reins in goal, posting a 2.08 GAA and .911 save percentage during the 11-game win streak.

There is a long way to go, but Brooks has a little bit of recent history on its side; the host team has claimed Canada’s National Junior A Championship in three of the last four years, with Cobourg’s win over the Bandits sandwiched between the Portage Terriers (2015) and Chilliwack Chiefs (2018).

For more information:

Vacant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4567 / 905-906-5327 (mobile)
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

Katie Macleod
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-612-2893 (mobile)
kmacleod@hockeycanada.ca

 

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