Two of the top defences in the AJHL collided in Game 1 of the league’s South Final on Friday night, yet more than a quarter of the shots on goal in the game entered the net, as the Brooks Bandits took an offensively-charged 7-5 win over the visiting Okotoks Oilers to open the league semifinal.

Brooks outshot Okotoks 27-19 in the game, getting points from 13 different skaters in the win.

The opening goal came just 4:59 into the game with a second remaining on Brooks’ first power play, when Ryan Mahshie (Stoney Creek, ON) slid a low shot from the right circle past Okotoks goalie Brady Parker. But Ben Evanish tied it for Okotoks less than two minutes later, tapping home a rebound from the left side of the Brooks net. But 43 seconds after that, Brandon Scanlin (Hamilton, ON) set up Mack Hancock (Kingston, ON) on a 2-on-1 rush, as the Bandit forward cut to the net and flipped a backhand shot past Parker to reclaim a one- goal lead for Brooks.

At the 11:43 mark, Evanish slid another rebound shot by Pierce Charleson (Aurora, ON) to tie the game 2-2, but just over a minute after that, a Simon Boyko (Mississauga, ON) centering pass was tipped in by Jakob Lee (Owen Sound, ON) to give Brooks the narrow advantage after one.

The second period was the game’s least high-scoring with only two goals. First, Nick Hale (Raleigh, NC) tapped home a rebound off a faceoff for his first of the playoffs, before Carson Dyck converted on a net front scramble for Okotoks at 9:46 to get the visitors back within one. Hale was knocked out of the game later in the period when he took a hard hit in the back from Marc Pasemko of the Oilers, sending him headfirst into the corner glass which dislodged his helmet. No penalty was assessed on the play, and the Bandits played with five defencemen for the remainder of the game.

In the third, with Brooks down a man, William Lemay (Marieville, QC) poke-checked a loose puck away from Oiler forward Austin Wong that ricocheted between Parker’s pads and into the Oiler net to give Brooks a 5-3 lead at 6:41.

Soon thereafter, the teams exchanged three goals in less than a minute of playing time. First, Ryan Grant tipped home an Evanish shot at 8:55 to make it 5-4. Off the centre ice faceoff, Arnaud Vachon (Ajax, ON) set up Andrew Lucas (Alexandria, VA) in the slot for a wrist shot goal that gave Brooks a 6-4 advantage. But just 31 seconds later, Louis Jamernik scored from the right side of the Brooks net to pull the Oilers back within a goal.

The difference maker came with 1:06 left when Hancock jammed a puck to neutral off a defensive zone faceoff, which Vachon chased down, outracing Wong and sliding the puck into the empty Okotoks net to cap off the 7-5 final score.

The Bandits and Oilers will meet again Saturday night in Brooks for Game 2 at 7 PM. Tickets are available online at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.

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