By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada
BROOKS, Alta. – Simon Gravel scored twice in the third period, including the game-winning goal in the opening minute, to help the Brooks Bandits (AJHL) come from behind to down the Portage Terriers (MJHL) 5-3 on Sunday night at the 2019 National Junior A Championship.
The Bandits are just the fifth host team since 2000 to open with consecutive wins, joining the 2002 Halifax Oland Exports, 2004 Grande Prairie Storm, 2006 Streetsville Derbys and 2012 Humboldt Broncos.
Andrew Lucas, William Lemay and Mack Hancock had the other goals for Brooks, which turned a two-goal deficit into a one-goal lead within 83 seconds late in the second period and early in the third.
Gravel gave the Bandits their first lead only 53 seconds into the final frame, parking himself at the top of the crease and banging home a feed after yeoman’s work by Ryan Mahshie behind the Portage goal, and he finished the scoring into an empty net as the clock struck zero.
The hosts controlled the play early, holding the Terriers without a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes, but quickly found themselves down 2-0.
Reilly Funk opened the scoring at 10:16 after Jay Buchholz jumped on a turnover at the side of the net and fed the puck in front, and Reece Henry had his centring pass bank off a Brooks skate and past goaltender Pierce Charleson at 14:57 to stun the capacity crowd at the Centennial Regional Arena.
Lucas got one back for the Bandits before the end of the period, getting a wrist shot through traffic for a power-play goal to send Brooks to the intermission down 2-1 despite outshooting the Terriers 19-6.
Ty Barnstable restored the two-goal edge for Portage with just over four minutes to go in the second period, getting his stick on a Sam Huston shot in the high slot, but that was the final highlight for the West Region champions.
Lemay made it 3-2 with 30 seconds left in the middle frame, circling into the slot and beating a screened Ethan Peterson, and Hancock jumped on an Andranik Armstrong rebound in the slot 17 seconds later to make it 3-3 after 40 minutes.
The Bandits locked down after the go-ahead goal by Gravel, allowing just six shots in the third period.
Brooks outshot the Terriers 46-16 overall.
The hosts will try to make it three-for-three when they take on the Ottawa Jr. Senators (CCHL) on Tuesday night (7 p.m. MT), right after Portage faces off against the Oakville Blades (OJHL) (2 p.m. MT).
Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images