Who says change is a good thing?
The Brooks Bandits – who will host the National Junior A Championship this
spring – are positioning themselves as one of the best teams in Alberta
Junior Hockey League history, and they’re doing it with largely the same
roster they have had all season.
The CJHL national trade deadline on Jan. 10 came and went without the
Bandits making a single move. The last trade Brooks made was sending
little-used forward Orca Wiesblatt to the Portage Terriers on Dec. 1, and
the last significant transactions were adding forward Randy Hernandez and
goaltender Tanner Marshall on Nov. 29.
Those two moves have worked out quite nicely – Hernandez, a product of the
U.S. National Team Development Program, has 19 points in as many games, and
Marshall is a perfect 7-0 with three shutouts in a back-up role.
But overall, the Bandits haven’t had to change much; as the regular season
enters the home stretch, they are a ridiculous 43-3, 15 points better than
any other team in Alberta and 21 points clear of Okotoks in the South
The No. 1 ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League for most of the
season, Brooks has scored 255 goals (54 more than anyone else), allowed 103
(11 fewer than anyone else) and has five of the top 20 scorers in the AJHL.
So far, so good.
It’s easy to forget the Bandits started their season with an 11-3 loss on
the road in Drumheller, especially when you look at how the rest of the
schedule has unfolded.
Brooks has just a pair of one-goal defeats on its record since opening
night – a 4-3 loss to the Spruce Grove Saints on Oct. 27 (a game the
Bandits led with less than nine minutes left), and a 4-3 setback against
the Calgary Mustangs on Nov. 27.
They are on pace to challenge their own league records for wins (53) and
points (109) in a season, both set during the 2012-13 campaign that ended
with the Bandits hoisting the RBC Cup for the first time.
First, a little bit of history is on tap this week; a 10-6 win over the
Canmore Eagles on Tuesday was the Bandits’ 20th in a row, equalling the
franchise record. They will look to set a new mark, and get within three of
the AJHL record (24, set by Okotoks last season), when they face Olds at
Centennial Regional Arena Friday night.
It has certainly been home sweet home at the CRA, where the Bandits are a
perfect 23-0, outscoring their opponents 129-44, with 17 of those wins
coming by at least three goals.
That’s bad news for the four regional champions who will gather for the
National Junior A Championship beginning May 11, where the Bandits will
look to become the fourth host team in five years to lay claim to the