BROOKS, AB – For the first 39 minutes of Sunday’s round-robin tilt between the Brooks Bandits and Portage Terriers, it was pure frustration for the home side.
But as they say in junior hockey, things can change in a split second.
The Bandits rallied back from a 3-1 deficit at the National Junior ‘A’ Championship, defeating the Terriers by a 5-3 final thanks to a pair of late goals in the second period to stun Portage heading into the intermission.
Despite Brooks holding the Terriers to just six shots through the opening 15 minutes of play, they trailed 2-0 after goals from Reilly Funk and Reece Henry.
Following a Braden Billaney interference call late in the frame, Andrew Lucas was able to score off a wrist shot from the point on the man advantage to close the gap to a single goal at the break.
Portage doubled their lead again with less than five minutes to play in the second period with a redirected shot from captain Ty Barnstable on the power play, keeping momentum on their side despite being heavily outshot.
Brooks halted that momentum with 30 seconds remaining in the second off a shot from William Lemay in the high slot, which was followed just 17 seconds by Mack Hancock’s second goal of the tournament.
The Bandits were quick out of the gate in the third period as well, with Ryan Mahshie setting up Simon Gravel in the crease for the go-ahead goal 53 seconds into the final frame.
Portage pressed with the netminder pulled late in the third, but Gravel was able to beat the buzzer with a late empty-net goal for his second of the night to guarantee the win for the host Bandits.
Gravel led his side with two goals and three points in the win, while Hancock took home Bandits player of the game honours with his second period marker.
Terriers player of the game went to goaltender Ethan Peterson who was pressed all night with 45 shots off Bandits sticks, making 41 saves in the loss.
As for Bandits netminder Pierce Charleson, he didn’t have his best stuff with three goals allowed on 16 shots, but was steady enough to earn three points in the standings.
Brooks now sits alone in first place in the tournament standings with a 2-0-0 record and will enjoy a day off Monday, with their third game coming Tuesday night at 7:00 pm against the 1-0-0 Ottawa Junior Senators.
The Terriers will also look to re-adjust their game with a day off, returning to the ice Tuesday afternoon versus the Oakville Blades trying to erase a 0-2-0 record.
Spruce Kings crown Blades
It’s safe to say the Prince George Spruce Kings haven’t lost a step from their Doyle Cup victory, picking up a convincing 5-1 win over the Oakville Blades in their first game at the National Junior ‘A’ Championship.
Patrick Cozzi and Ben Poisson each had two-point showings for the BCHL champions, helping to erase a 1-0 Oakville lead after 20 minutes.
Chong Min Lee, Jay Keranen, and Nick Poisson also found the back of the net for the Spruce Kings in their first win of the tournament, peppering Oakville with 41 shots on the afternoon.
Blades captain Peyton Reeves had the lone goal for Oakville on the power play in the first period, while Will Barber was pulled in the third after allowing five goals on 39 shots.
Prince George will battle the Ottawa Junior Senators on Monday night, while the Blades are off until Tuesday afternoon for a date with the Portage Terriers.
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