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Western Canada Cup Finals Set with Brooks Against Chilliwack

By Neil Hilts on May 05, 2017

The Chilliwack Chiefs will look to upset the the 4-0 Brooks Bandits in the Western Canada Cup Finals on Saturday. Brooks won the round robin clash between the two 5-2. (Courtesy of the Chilliwack Chiefs)

The Brooks Bandits’ unstoppable season continues to roll on as they’re set to play in the Western Canada Cup Finals Saturday.

Cruising through the round robin winning all four games, the Bandits have scored 18 goals (six more than the closest, Penticton) and allowed six (five fewer than Chilliwack and Battleford) and are the odds on favourite in the final.

Joining the Bandits in the final is the Chilliwack Chiefs, who went 2-2 in round robin, ending with six points. The two met on the first day of the tournament on Apr. 29 with the Bandits winning 5-2. 

The Chiefs finished second in the regular season and playoffs in the BCHL, plus had the second-highest goals per game, something they’ll need to prolong the year. In round robin, Chilliwack got wins over Portage and Penticton, who they lost to in Game 7 of the BCHL Finals.

As BCHL Champions and hosts of the Western Canada Cup, expectations were high for Penticton, but the Vees lost two close games (including one in a shootout to Brooks), putting them out of finals contention. They’ll need to use their home ice advantage against Battleford in the semis in order to keep RBC Cup hopes alive.

Playoffs were no problem in the SJHL for Battleford, winning 12 straight en route to the league title after an outstanding regular season at 48-9-1. However, they stumbled out of the gate in Penticton, losing their first three before finding their footing with a 3-0 shutout over Chilliwack. Since they had an overtime loss, the extra point was enough to push the ahead of Portage for the last spot in the knockout stage. They now play the Vees in hopes of securing a road trip to Ontario for the RBC Cup.

The season ends for the Portage Terriers, the 2015 RBC Cup victors, earlier than they would have hoped, but it was a miraculous run. As the fifth seed in the MJHL, the Terriers won three straight series in six games, including against the No. 1 team, claiming their third championship in three years and seventh in the past 10. However, Portage lost three in a row at the WCC after picking up a win in Game 1 and couldn’t pull out a win in the do-or-die against Penticton Thursday night.

The winner of the final between Brooks and Chilliwack not only gets to lift the Western Canada Cup, but they will also earn a trip to the RBC Cup, the national Jr. A tournament hosted in Cobourg, Ont. starting May 3.

In their previously mentioned meeting, Brooks held control, winning 5-2 and outshooting the Chiefs 36-24. Chilliwack scored one in the first and led early on, but after Brooks added three in period two, they scored twice more just 21 seconds apart four minutes into the third to stride ahead on the scoreboard. Chilliwack hit twine with just over five minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late.

Now, the Chiefs will hope to turn it around in the Finals.

For the loser, they still get a second chance and will play the winner of Penticton and Battleford on Sunday for the second RBC Cup berth. The Vees took the first meeting in round robin.

Only the second game of the tournament needing extra time, the hometown Vees got a goal from Christopher Klack, his second point of the game, to give Penticton a 2-1 win over Battleford. Battleford took a 1-0 lead into the third, but Penticton scored 31 second into period 3 to tie things up. Joel Gryzbowski did all he could to give Battleford a chance, stopping 36 of 38 shots.

Across the leaderboard for scoring, Brooks has the top four scorers highlighted by Parker Foo’s seven points and four assists, along with Cale Makar’s six points and three goals. Chase Brakel of Portage led round robin play with four goals.

As one might expect with a 4-0 record, the Bandits have had solid goaltending. Mitchel Benson leads the stats with a 1.45 GAA and .938 save percentage. Battleford’s Joel Gryzbowski and Penticton’s Mathew Robson are tied for second in GAA with 2.45, and Gryzbowski is third in save percentage with .920 – impressive as he has seen 24 more shots than the next closest.

The Western Canada Cup Finals will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. MST, while the second play-in for the RBC goes 4 p.m. Sunday.

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By Neil Hilts| May 05, 2017
Categories:  Junior

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