Sherwood Park, AB: The Brooks Bandits came to town, looking to continue their hot start since the return to play. Friday night's contest was the first of four meetings in the next two weeks between the two sides for their second cohort series of the season. Brooks enters the game with a 9-1-0 record and a three-game winning streak, while Sherwood Park holds a 6-5-1 record and just the one game streak. Carson Cherepak got the start for the Crusaders, and the Bandits countered with Ethan Barwick.
The first period was incredibly even, with both teams getting some dangerous scoring chances throughout the period. Brooks kicked off the scoring just two and a half minutes in, as a strong forecheck forced a turnover behind the Crusaders net, and Ryan McAllister found Owen Cole in the high slot, who made no mistake, beating Cherepak over the glove. However, the Crusaders didn't take long to respond as Ty Mueller dropped the shoulder on his defender, allowing him to streak in and score through the five-hole to tie the game at one after just three and a half minutes. Both teams had opportunities on the power play, including a four-minute advantage for Brooks, but neither team could cash in. Shots in the period favoured Brooks 9-6.
The second started the same way as the first, with both teams pressing to play their style of hockey and neither team really managing to get the edge. That is, until the 15-minute mark of the period. A bobbled puck at the Brooks blue line allowed T.J. Hughes to streak in on a breakaway and scored on a nice move to the backhand, giving Brooks the lead once again. Again, it didn't take the Crusaders long to respond. A penalty to Ethan Lund gave Sherwood Park their second power play of the game, and they only needed six seconds of it, as Blake Sydlowski found the rebound from a Matthew Shatsky point shot to tie things back up at the halfway point of the game. Brooks ramped up the intensity from there, and Sherwood Park clung to this scoreline for much of the second half of the period. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the Bandits finally managed to bust through the wall and open the flood gates. Three goals in the final three minutes of the period gave Brooks a 5-2 lead, with Sean Chisholm, Brendan Mairs and Owen Cole each found the back of the net before the 40th minute expired. Shots favoured the Bandits, 14-11 in the second period.
The third period opened with the Crusaders searching for a response to the three-goal outburst to end the period for Brooks, but it never really came. A second double-minor for the Crusaders turned into a goal for the Bandits, as Brendan Mairs scored his second over Cherepak's shoulder from the hash marks. The Crusaders would respond to the goal seven minutes later, as a good forecheck from Colby Garner led to a pass out front onto Blake Sydlowski's stick, who made no mistake, going top right corner on Barwick to cut the lead down to 6-3. Brooks once again exploded for three goals late in the period, with Brendan Kennette, T.J. Hughes and Chris Pappas scoring in the final three and a half minutes, to stretch the lead to 9-3 Bandits, and that's where we ended. Shots favoured Brooks 17-4 in the final frame, with a full game total of 40-21.
Cherepak made 31 saves in the loss, while Barwick stopped 18 of the 21 he faced for the win.
The teams are back in action Saturday night at the Sherwood Park Arena.
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