The Brooks Bandits had the highest regular-season winning percentage among the five teams competing at the 2016 RBC Cup, and put together arguably the most
impressive playoff run, but they’ll be the lone team in Lloydminster (other than the host Bobcats) without a regional title.
Brooks earned the West Region’s second berth in Canada’s National Junior A Championship after a loss to the West Kelowna Warriors in the Western Canada Cup
final, their lone postseason setback in regulation time.
But the Bandits have something no other team competing in the Border City has – a national title.
Three years ago, Brooks hoisted the RBC Cup with a win over the host Western Capitals in Summerside, P.E.I., becoming the eighth Alberta Junior Hockey
League team to win the national championship.
Now it’s made the 439-kilometre trip north to Lloydminster in search of title No. 2.
The Bandits finished the regular season as one of just nine teams across Canada with single-digit losses in regulation time, and their 49 wins were the
second-best in team history, behind only the 53 victories by the RBC Cup-winning 2012-13 team.
But a 49-9-2 record wasn’t enough to top the AJHL; Brooks finished two points behind the Spruce Grove Saints, who claimed the Dave Duchak Trophy as
regular-season champions for the sixth time in eight years.
The Bandits’ offence, though, was far and away No. 1. Brooks scored 306 goals in 60 games (its 5.1 goals per game was sixth-best in the country) and its
+171 goal differential was 31 better than the Saints.
It spread around the points, with five players finishing among the top 20 in AJHL scoring; Dylan McCrory led the way with 70 points, good for sixth in the
league, while Jared Cockrell (68), Ty Mappin (67), Derek Lodermeier (60), and Jeff Malott (60) also reached the 60-point mark.
And while Spruce Grove had the AJHL’s best defence, allowing 12 fewer goals than Brooks, the Bandits iced the league’s top goaltenders; Josh Davies, who
played the majority of minutes through the end of December, led the AJHL with a 2.18 goals-against average in 39 appearances, just ahead of veteran
netminder Garret Hughson, who posted a 2.23 GAA in 17 games after joining Brooks in early January.
The Bandits seemed to really hit their stride in late November. Sitting at a more-than-respectable 19-6-2 on Nov. 28, Brooks reeled off 17 consecutive wins
and 28 victories in 29 games through the end of February.
And the hot streak didn’t end with the close of the regular season; after a 13-day layoff thanks to a first-round bye as South Division champions, the
Bandits absolutely dominated the Canmore Eagles in the division semifinals, allowing just two goals (both in Game 3) in a four-game sweep.
They made it eight-straight postseason wins with a whitewashing of Camrose in the South Division final, outscoring the Kodiaks by a convincing 22-4 margin
in the four games and setting up the Brooks-Spruce Grove final everyone had expected.
The Bandits and Saints didn’t disappoint, going to overtime in each of the first three games; Jesse Pereira and Parker Foo were the extra-period heroes for
Brooks in Games 1 and 3, respectively, while Spruce Grove handed the Bandits their first loss of the playoffs with a double-OT win in between.
Brooks took control of the series with a 4-2 victory in Game 5, and closed out its second AJHL championship on the road in Game 6, denying the Saints a
third-straight league title.
The next stop was Estevan, Sask., and the Western Canada Cup, where the Bandits became the first team in the four-year history of the tournament to win all
four of its preliminary-round games, clinching a berth in the championship game in the process.
One win from a trip to the RBC Cup the Bandits fell into an early three-goal hole against the Warriors and couldn’t recover, dropping a 6-0 decision that
sent them to the ‘second chance’ qualifying game against the defending national champions, the Portage Terriers.
Brooks wouldn’t be denied a second time, getting goals from Malott and Josh McKechney, and outlasting the Terriers 2-1 to confirm its spot in Lloydminster
as the second West Region representative – the same path it took in 2013 when it won the RBC Cup.
With the Bobcats hosting the tournament, it marks the first time since the introduction of the host team in 1985 that two AJHL teams will appear at the
same national championship.
HOW THEY GOT TO LLOYDMINSTER
Alberta Junior Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Canmore 4-0 (8-0, 4-0, 6-2, 5-0)
Semifinal: defeated Camrose 4-0 (4-1, 4-0, 9-2, 5-1)
AJHL championship: defeated Spruce Grove 4-1 (3-2 OT, 2-3 2OT, 2-1 OT, 4-2, 4-1)
Western Canada Cup
Round robin: first place – 4-0 (defeated West Kelowna 4-2, defeated Melfort 3-0, defeated Portage 9-3, defeated Estevan 6-4)
Championship: lost to West Kelowna 6-0
RBC Cup qualifier: defeated Portage 2-1
Record: 49-9-2 (2nd in AJHL)
Goals for: 306 (1st in AJHL)
Goals against: 135 (2nd in AJHL)
Power play: 78 for 341 (22.9% – 4th in AJHL)
Penalty killing: 252 of 298 (84.6% – 5th in AJHL)
Longest winning streak: 17 (Nov. 28-Jan. 22)
Top 3 scorers:
Dylan McCrory (24G 46A 70P – 6th in AJHL)
Jared Cockrell (36G 32A 68P – 8th in AJHL)
Ty Mappin (17G 50A 67P – 12th in AJHL)
Goals for: 84
Goals against: 31
Power play: 26 for 108 (24.1%)
Penalty killing: 93 of 108 (92.1%)
Top 3 scorers:
Derek Lodermeier (7G 19A 26P)
Dylan McCrory (11G 8A 19P)
Cale Makar (4G 15A 19P)
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2013 – Brooks Bandits | national champions | 27 GF 14 GA
CJHL NATIONAL RANKINGS – WEEK-BY-WEEK
Sept. 1 (preseason) – not ranked
Sept. 29 – not ranked
Oct. 5 – not ranked
Oct. 12 – not ranked
Oct. 19 – not ranked
Oct. 26 – not ranked
Nov. 9 – honourable mention
Nov. 16 – honourable mention
Nov. 23 – honourable mention
Nov. 30 – 17th
Dec. 7 – 13th
Dec. 14 – 12th
Dec. 21 – 7th
Jan. 4 – 7th
Jan. 11 – 5th
Jan. 18 – 5th
Jan. 25 – 6th
Feb. 1 – 6th
Feb. 8 – 6th
Feb. 15 – 5th
Feb. 22 – 5th
Feb. 29 – 8th
March 7 – 8th
Shane Bear – University of Massachusetts Amherst (2016-17)
Jared Cockrell – Colgate University (2016-17)
Parker Foo – Union College (2016-17
Jarrod Gourley – Arizona State University (2018-19)
Derek Lodermeier – University of Vermont (2016-17)
Cale Makar – University of Massachusetts Amherst (2017-18)
Jeff Malott – Cornell University (2016-17)
Charlie Marchand – Bentley University (2017-18)
Dylan McCrory – Bemidji State University (2016-17)
Jared McKechney – Colgate University (2017-18)
Logan Mick – Quinnipiac University (2016-17)
Kyler Nachtigall – University of Massachusetts Amherst (2016-17)
Joe O’Connor – Quinnipiac University (2016-17)
Jesse Pereira – Canisius College (2016-17)
Tristan Thompson – University of Alaska Fairbanks (2016-17)
Austin Wright – Rochester Institute of Technology (2016-17)