BROOKS, AB – Simon Gravel (Boucherville, QC) scored on a breakaway backhand shot after 96 minutes and 57 seconds of hockey on Saturday night, giving the Brooks Bandits a thrilling 3-2 double overtime win over the Spruce Grove Saints in Game 2 of the AJHL Final in front of a crowd of 1,641 at the Centennial Regional Arena.
The game was highlighted by all-star goaltending performances by Spruce Grove’s Matt Davis, who made 45 saves on 48 shots, and Brooks’ Pierce Charleson (Aurora, ON), who stopped 44 of 46 for the win.
Brooks now leads the series two games to none as it switches to the Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove for Game 3 on Monday night.
The Bandits opened the scoring 3:26 into the game when Randy Hernandez (Miami, FL) cut around a defender for a breakaway, but fell on the way towards the net. Picking up the puck behind him, William Lemay (Marieville, QC) cut in on goal and tucked a one-handed poke check shot by Davis to give Brooks a 1-0 lead.
Just 54 seconds into the second, a clearance by the Saints ricocheted off of Tyler Campbell (Winnipeg, MB) and came to Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) at the right point. The Bandit veteran drove down to the right circle and fired a low shot past Davis to double the Brooks advantage.
But the Saints struck back in the same period; first on a Seth Fyten backhand wraparound goal at 6:39, then a bar-down wrister from Tanner Hickey at 8:58 in the high slot to tie the game up.
A scoreless third almost wasn’t, after Bandit defenceman Carter Wolski (Sexsmith, AB) was assessed a major penalty for boarding. It meant that of the final 5:49 left in the game, 5 minutes would be spent with the Saints on the power play; but Brooks managed to kill it off and force overtime.
A scoreless first overtime period gave way to a second extra frame in which it looked like the Saints again had the game gift-wrapped, after a Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) high sticking double minor gave Spruce Grove another extended power play. After a Jakob Lee (Owen Sound, ON) shorthanded breakaway was robbed by Davis, it was Charleson’s turn to shine as he dove from left to right and made a midair blocker save on a wide open backdoor shot by Alex Dalton of the Saints, earning a standing ovation from the CRA crowd as the time finally expired on the lengthy Brooks penalty kill.
Soon after, the Saints took control on an offensive zone draw but the puck skipped by Cory Babichuk at the left point, out to the neutral zone. Gravel chased it down, drove into the Saints zone down the right side, sped past a defender, cut in front of the net, and tucked a five-hole backhander into the Saints cage to send the crowd into a frenzy and give the Bandits the dramatic 3-2 win.
Brooks outshot the Saints 48-46 in the game, going 0 for 4 on the power play and a perfect 5 for 5 on an oft-tested penalty kill. Game 3 is scheduled for 7 PM on Monday night with pre-game coverage starting at 6:45 on Real Country 105.7.
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