BROOKS, Alta – The Brooks Bandits fumbled away their big lead but still found a way to spike the Ottawa Senators’ season.
Knowing all season they were going to host the national junior A hockey championship the Bandits guaranteed they will be playing for the title when they return to their home at Centennial Regional Arena Sunday afternoon.
They hung on to defeat the Senators 4-3 in the semifinal Saturday and will move on to play either the Prince George Spruce Kings or Oakville Blades for the championship.
Simon Boyko, Ray Christy, Williams Lemay and Ryan Mashie were the Brooks goalscorers. Kyle Jackson, Geoffrey Dempster and Conor Smart put the outcome in doubt, scoring for Ottawa.
“That was an interesting game. I mean we got up on them early and just kind of stayed on top of them all game until the third period there when we gave up a couple, but we just stayed positive and managed to muster it out,” said Mashie.
Brooks increased the lead to 4-1 early in the third period on a power-play goal from Mashie, set up by Simon Boyko. For Mashie it was his second goal and seventh point of the tournament.
“It was just a great pass by Simon Boyko, right out front to me and I just had to tap it in pretty much and got it done,” Mashie said.
The Bandits were on their second power play of the period when Dempster stripped Christy of the puck along the right side and found some space between the legs of Brooks goalie Pierce Charleson to make it a 4-2 game.
The Senators kept up the pressure and were rewarded a few minutes later when Smart deflected in a shot from defenceman Adrien Bisson to cut the gap to one goal.
“We just had to stay positive,” said Mashie. “We knew we could get through it. We’ve been through the ups and downs all season and just the positive vibes got us through it and we managed to win this one.”
Ottawa got Boisvert to the bench with about two minutes left but had a difficult time getting set up in the Brooks zone. When finally did get close the officials counted seven Ottawa players on the ice and with 1:15 left the Senators were called for too many men.
Jackson had the best chance for the tying goal with eight seconds left but Charleson saw it coming and shot across the crease in time to smother the puck and send the Senators packing.
“I loved our effort,” said Senators head coach Martin Dagenais. “I you look at both teams, for us to come in here and get outshot by eight or nine shots and lose the game 4-3, battling injuries all week… I was so happy with the effort.
“Obviously you want to win the hockey game but I’m not disappointed. We overachieved all year long. We started off 1-4 and not a lot of people expected us to be here at the national championship.”
The Senators opened with a 3-0 win over the Portage Terriers, then lost three straight. That one victory, as it turned out, was all they needed to advance to the semifinal round. That allowed Dagenais to rest his injured players, including Bisson, their top defenceman, for the playoff round.
Lemay, the Alberta Junior Hockey League scoring champion in the regular season and playoffs, gave the Bandits a three-goal cushion, scoring on a low blocker side shot just 43 seconds into the second period. Boisvert, named Friday as the most valuable player of the tournament, knew it was a save he should have made and hung his head in disappointment.
“That was probably the only bad goal he gave up in the entire tournament, it was off a broken play,” said Dagenais. “We knew we had the advantage on net and it was too bad he wasn’t 100 per cent but at the same time he made three of four huge saves.”
Boisvert left Thursday’s game against Oakville with a groin injury about 10 minutes in and showed a few signs early in the game he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy in the semifinal but looked much more like a tournament MVP in the second half of the game, which inspired the Senators at the other end of the ice.
They got their first goal in the second period near the end of a four-minute high-sticking penalty issued Bandits’ defenceman Corson Ceulemans. The Senators stripped the puck away from Lemay behind the net and Ottawa forward Darcy Walsh sent a pass out front for Jackson.
Now 5-0 in the tournament, the Bandits had to come from behind to win their first three games. Boyko’s opener set them on the right track but they couldn’t relax until the final buzzer.
“That (goal) was pretty big, I think it was our first shift of the game,” said Boyko. “It’s easier to play with the lead.
“It’s good to play in games like that for tomorrow, so if something like that happens, we’ve been through it. It’s pretty beneficial.”
The Bandits lost a six-game Doyle Cup series to the Spruce Kings and Bandits centre Jake Lee, a good friend of Prince George defenceman Max Coyle, would love to have another shot at the Kings in the final Sunday.
“It was a fun series in the Doyle Cup and obviously they got the best of us but we’re looking to get some redemption,” said Lee. “It would be good to play (Coyle) in the national final and we’ll see what happens in the second semifinal.”
National Junior A Hockey Championship
In Brooks, Alta.
Ottawa Junior Senators 3 Brooks Bandits 4
1. Brooks, Boyko 1 (Lee) 2:48
2. Brooks, Christy 1 (Plessis) 16:50
Penalties – None.
3. Brooks, Lemay 3 (Hernandez, Bast) 0:43
4. Ottawa, Jackson 3 (Walsh, Boulerice) 8:13 (pp)
Penalties – Ceulemans BKS (double high-sticking) 4:49, Boulerice OTT (hooking) 10:19, Plessis BKS (hooking) 12:48.
5 Brooks, Mashie 2 (Boyko) 1:51 (pp)
6. Ottawa, Dempster 1, 4:10 (sh)
7. Ottawa, Smart 1 (Bisson, Toppa) 7:45.
Penalties – Brant OTT (holding) 0:37, Boulerice OTT (goaltender interference) 4:02, OTT bench (too many men, served by Pion) 18:45.
Shots on goal by
Ottawa 8 7 10 -25
Brooks11 10 13 -34
Goal – Ottawa, Boisvert (L,1-3); Brooks, Charleson (W,5-0).
Power plays – OTT: 1-2; ; BKS: 1-5.
Players of the game – Ottawa, Adrien Bisson; Brooks: Ryan Mashie.
Attendance – 2,175.