April 29, 2019
Ted Clark, Prince George Citizen
Driven to distraction by the Brooks Bandits and not winning any favours from the guys wearing the stripes, the Prince George Spruce Kings did something Sunday they’d never done in their two-month-long playoff run.
They lost consecutive games.
The Brooks Bandits could do no wrong and were full-marks victors in a 4-0 decision in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Doyle Cup championship Sunday night in Brooks, Alta.
Pierce Charleson made 21 saves for his fourth shutout of the playoffs.
Jakob Lee led the way offensively for Brooks with two goals and an assist. Ray Christy and Tyler Campbell also scored.
“It was disappointing, but I did think we played better than (Saturday) night when we were even up and I don’t think the 4-0 score indicates the game, to be honest,” said Kings head coach Adam Maglio. “They’re a good team and there a fine line between these teams between winning and losing and I think it’s going to be the same in (the national championship).”
The Kings were the least penalized team in the BCHL this season but their lack of discipline in Game 3 made a decisive difference.
Two of the Bandits’ goals came on power plays and the Kings’ inability to stay out of the box derailed any hopes of a comeback in the third period.
Their troubles started when winger Ben Brar was sent off for a minor and 10-minute misconduct late in the first period for making head contact on Brooks defenceman Andrew Lucas deep in the Brooks end and Christy’s goal came while Brar stewed in the box. The Bandits winger took the puck in deep and scored on a shot under the blocker of Logan Neaton with 12 seconds left in the first period.
The Bandits doubled the lead after a quick zone entry 5:19 into the second. Lee used defenceman Max Coyle as a screen as he let go a wrist shot from the left wing and snuck the puck through Neaton just inside the post.
Charleson was at his best in the second period. The Kings did the right things to generate offence and had the better chances in the middle period but had no puck luck around the net.
Trailing 2-0, the Spruce Kings showed more desperation in the offensive end and came close to scoring several times.
Near the 10-minute mark, Nick Wilson spotted Patrick Cozzi alone in front and hit him with a pass from the right-side boards. Cozzi tried to deke but was poke-checked by Charleson. Dylan Anhorn then took the loose puck behind the net and was stopped on his wraparound chance. Before the Bandits could clear the zone, Layton Ahac’s point shot was tipped in front, forcing Charleson to make another sharp save. Late in the period, Brar was stuffed on a backhander after getting sprung into the clear by linemate Corey Cunningham.
Bandits winger Lee made it 3-0 with six minutes gone in the third period. Lucas sent a stretch pass up to Simon Boyko, who dragged the puck into the middle and put a wrist shot on goal. The puck was left for Lee and he popped in the rebound for his second of the game and third in the last two games.
The penalties continued to mount for the Spruce Kings and Nick Wilson and Coyle were each given misconducts within 10 seconds of each other. With captain Ben Poisson also sent off for 10 minutes for arguing a call late in the second period, the Kings had six players in the box and were playing shorthanded for a fifth time with Chong Min Lee off for high-sticking when the Bandits clicked on a three-way passing play that resulted in Campbell’s goal.
The Bandits went 2-for-6 on the power play while the Kings were 0-for-2. In the series, the Bandits are 3-for-13, while Prince George is 0-for-5. Playing shorthanded six times Sunday didn’t help and the four misconducts made it even worse for the Kings. A clearly frustrated Maglio got tossed with 6:42 left after he was denied a line change.
The Spruce Kings won the opener Friday 2-0 and lost Game 2 Saturday 3-1.
“The first two games probably could have gone either way and tonight we got a couple good bounces that were favourable,” said Bandits head coach Ryan Papaioannou.
“It’s two good teams and for me it’s really up in the air on what’s going to happen. When you have a team like them that has four lines that can all play, a really good back end that’s mobile and not only good defensively but always a threat offensively, and then you’ve got a goaltender like Neaton. It’s tough if you actually do generate an offensive opportunity, then you’ve got that guy to beat.
“We found we couldn’t generate anything on the first night and it’s seeming we’ve been able to find ways to generate a little more and that’s good for us.”
The teams were playing their third game in three nights and that became more of a detriment for the road-weary Spruce Kings, who dressed 13 forwards and only five defencemen.
During the season the Kings had six weekends in which they played three games in less than three days while the Bandits never had to face that situation. Losing Jay Keranen in Game 2 and Liam Watson-Brawn in the Victoria series to upper-body injuries took two older veterans off the blueline and forced the Kings to rely more on Ahac, Nick Bochen and Jason Chu, who all started the season as 17-year-olds.
“We have a young d-corps right now and they have an older forward group with primarily 19- and 20-year-olds we’ve got guys playing in different spots, and they did a decent job for the most part,” said Maglio.
The rest of the series will be played at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena with Game 4 on Wednesday and Game 5 on Thursday. Games are also scheduled, if necessary, Saturday and Sunday. Both teams will travel Monday.
“It’s going to bring a rejuvenation to our group, especially with two days off and the rest,” said Maglio. “We certainly are in a battle and even those we both get in (to the national tournament) the guys want this series.”
The Bandits are scheduled to skate at RMCA at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“We’ve watched a lot of video from their building and realize the corners are different and there might be some liveliness and we’re excited to get out and get a feel for the arena,” said Papaioannou.
“Sleeping in hotels and eating meals on the road is just not the same and we’re happy the three-in-three was here. As much as we’re happy how the last two nights went, now we’re going to have to take the show on the road and it’s not going to be easy.”
LOOSE PUCKS: Forward Spencer DenBeste was inserted into the Kings lineup for the first time since Game 2 of the Chilliwack series March 19…Both teams have qualified for the junior A national championship, May 11-19 in Brooks.
The Bandits, who have won five AJHL titles in the past eight years, play their first game at the five-team national tournament on Saturday, May 11 against Central, the yet-to-be determined Dudley Hewitt Cup champions from Ontario.
The Spruce Kings won’t play that day and will open the following night against Central. The Bandits and Spruce Kings will meet in the final game of the round-robin, Thursday, May 16….
The West representatives will either be the Saskatchewan league champion Batttlefords North Stars or the Portage Terriers of Manitoba, who are playing this week for the Anavet Cup.
That best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 set for Tuesday in North Battleford, Sask.… A hailstorm and blizzard blew through the Brooks area Saturday, dumping 10-15 centimetres of snow. The whiteout conditions Saturday night resulted in the closure of Highway 1.