The host Brooks Bandits have won Canada’s 49th National Junior A Championship, using a three-goal first period to down the Prince George Spruce Kings 4-3 in a thrilling final Sunday at the Centennial Regional Arena.
It is the second national title for the Bandits, and it comes six years to the day they won their first. Brooks is the fourth host team in the last five years to win the national championship, joining Portage (2015), Cobourg (2017) and Chilliwack (2018).
“This means everything,” said Brooks head coach Ryan Papaioannou. “I don’t know if there will be another game here for a long time that will be as special as this. For as much as [the fans] have supported us for the last 10 years, for us to be able to give them a win on home ice it means as much to them as it does to our players.”
Brooks opened up a big lead early, getting goals from Simon Boyko (Mississauga, Ont.), William Lemay (Marieville, Que.) and captain Nathan Plessis (Salmon Arm, B.C.) before the 14-minute mark of the first period.
After Boyko and Patrick Cozzi (Greenlawn, N.Y.) traded goals in the second period, the Spruce Kings battled back in the third; Nick Poisson (Vancouver, B.C.) scored his tournament-leading sixth goal midway through the final frame and Nolan Welsh (Whistler, B.C.) made it a one-goal game with 44.8 seconds left, but that would be as close as the Pacific Region champions would get.
“It feels incredible,” said Plessis, who was one of three Bandits, along with Jake Theis and Arnaud Vachon, who were part of the team that lost the national final to Cobourg in 2017. “I waited two years for this. As soon as I heard we were going to host, I knew I had to come back and we had to finish our business. This is incredible – we worked so hard for this.”
Goaltender Pierce Charleson (Aurora, Ont.) recorded 26 saves for the win.
“I don’t think that’s the start you want, putting yourself behind, maybe too far behind,” said Prince George head coach Adam Maglio. “We’re a resilient team, and we clawed and fought back and [we were] a couple bounces away from tying this up. These are momentum games, the first goal is important and [the Bandits] rode that momentum with the crowd in it. Credit it to them, they played a great game tonight, but I’m still proud of this group.”
Brooks finished first in the preliminary round with an undefeated 4-0-0-0 record. The Bandits defeated Oakville (7-3), Portage (5-3), Ottawa (2-1) and Prince George (3-1) before a 4-3 semifinal win over Ottawa on Saturday.
Portage la Prairie, Man., and the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League will play host to the 50th edition of the National Junior A Championship from May 9-17, 2020.