VIDEO: Bandits Strike Early, Cats Comeback Falls Short

Despite a strong comeback effort, the Brooks Bandits were able to do enough damage in the first period tonight to build up a lead that the Lloydminster Bobcats couldn’t erase, taking a 4-0 lead out of the opening frame on the way to a 5-3 victory.

The Bandits got started at the 6:03 mark of the first period as Dylan McCrory found a loose puck behind the net after a tenacious fore check, and tucked a wraparound past Alex Leclerc to put the home team ahead.

Minutes later, Cats defenceman Stefan Wood was sent to the penalty box after a collision with a Bandits forward as the two battled for positioning on an icing call. The penalty was the second one assessed to Wood in the opening 9:16 of the game, and the Bobcats bench was given an unsportsmanlike penalty shortly afterwards as they voiced their displeasure with the calls.

With well over a minute of 5-on-3 power play, the Bandits wasted no time as Jared Cockrell scored 0:23 after the unsportsmanlike penalty to make it 2-0 for Brooks.

Minutes later, Bandits defenceman Shane Bear found a seam and put a shot through from the blue line. Leclerc was able to get a piece of it but not enough as the puck slipped through and in to boost the Bandits lead to 3-0.

Shortly after Bear’s goal, Bobcats defenceman Christian Lloyd was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct – the fourth straight penalty of the game to the Bobcats – when he bumped into the foot of Bandits forward Jared Cockrell after a whistle in Bobcats territory.

On the ensuing man advantage, it was Cockrell that took a feed from Dylan McCrory and beat Leclerc for his second power play goal of the opening frame.
The buzzer would sound at the end of the first period with the Bobcats trailing 4-0, having spent 6:16 on the penalty kill, while the shots on goal favoured the Bandits 14-10.

In the second period, the Bobcats came out with a purpose and began applying pressure to the hosts immediately. The Cats would get two power plays of their own, and despite generating a number of chances weren’t able to score.

During the first power play opportunity of the game for the Bobcats, Kyler Nachtigall covered the puck with his hand in the crease, leading to a penalty shot for the Cats. However, Ryan Chynoweth was unable to solve Bandits goaltender Garrett Hughson.

Later in the period, with Cole Josefchak in the box for holding, the Bobcats were finally able to break through on a shorthanded break. Morgan Messenger carried the puck into the zone before feathering a saucer pass across to Kris Spriggs, who redirected it under the cross bar to put the Cats on the board. With the goal, Spriggs extended his goal streak to four games, and his point streak to ten, both of which are the longest current streaks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The visiting Bobcats continued to press in the waning minutes, but were only able to muster one goal in the middle frame despite outshooting the Bandits 12-6.

Early in the third, Messenger found Spriggs once again to cut the Bandits lead in half. From behind the goal line, Messenger fed Spriggs who made no mistake, beating Hughson blocker side to make it 4-2.

Shortly afterwards, the Bobcats were able to kill off a penalty to forward Kevin Darrar, but were unable to capitalize on the momentum. Later the Cats would find themselves shorthanded again as Josefchak was called for roughing.

This time, the Bandits power play was able to strike for the third time of the night as Nick Prkusic banged home a rebound to extend the lead to 5-2.
Less than two minutes later, Spriggs answered once again as he struck on the power play from a nearly impossible angle to bring the Bobcats within two again. For the third time of the night, Messenger assisted on Spriggs’ goal.

Despite a persistent effort, time ultimately ran out on the Bobcats before they could cut further into the Bandits lead.

For Brooks, the man advantage was a key as the Bandits scored three times on seven power play situations. The Bobcats were able to convert once on the power play in four opportunities, and added a shorthanded goal.

The Bobcats road trip continues tomorrow night as they travel to Okotoks to take on the Oilers at 7:00PM.