COBOURG, Ont. – The Cobourg Cougars, hosts of the 2017 RBC Cup, have been crowned this year’s National Junior A Champions following a 3-2 overtime win over the Brooks Bandits.
The Cougars opened up the scoring at 3:56 in the first period on a goal by Jamie Huber (Goderich, Ont.). Conner Jean (Oakland, Mich.) tied it up for the Bandits less than five minutes later, and the teams would stay at one goal apiece until a third-period goal by Bandits’ captain Nick Prkusic (Medicine Hat, Alta.) at 11:29 of the third.
Ryan Casselman (Napanee, Ont.) forced the game into overtime, scoring with just one minute, seven seconds to go in regulation time; Nick Minerva (New Brunswick, N.J.) brought the building to its feet, netting the game-winner at 8:21 in overtime.
“When I was sitting on the bench, I was saying to Matt Bumstead, my D partner, and we were talking about how we were gonna end this thing, somehow, some way,” said Minerva during the on-ice celebration with his team. “I saw the puck come out, it kind of bobbled a little bit, and I saw that the Brooks guys didn’t challenge me at all. I blacked out and closed my eyes, took the hardest shot I ever took in my life, and it went it. It still hasn’t really hit me to be honest with you.”
The Cougars’ Stefano Durante (Brampton, Ont.) – the 2017 RBC Cup Top Goaltender – turned away 41 shots in the win. Cale Makar (Calgary) was the only player on either team to earn two points in the game, assisting on both Brooks goals, including the go-ahead-goal by Prkusic.
“[The season] was incredible. To me, we’re the best team in this country, and when it comes down to one game where anything can happen, and the worst happened,” said an emotional Prkusic after some time with his teammates in the Brooks dressing room following the game. “I love that group of guys in there, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll have those memories for the rest of my life – it was the best year of my life, and the best three years of my life, and I can’t say enough about the organization, the coaches, the fans, the community.”
Brooks heads home as AJHL and Western Cup champions, having lost only six of 84 games in regulation time this season.