Just like their name suggests, the Brooks Bandits took off running and never looked back in what can only be described as one of the greatest seasons in Canadian Jr. A hockey history.
The Bandits, members of the Alberta Junior League, spent the entire 2018-19 campaign at the top of the Canadian Jr. A League rankings, finishing the regular season with an astounding 57-3-0 record and setting the all-time AJHL marks for wins and points along the way.
With a bye to the second round, Brooks posted a 12-3 playoff record to capture the league title. The Bandits then faced the Prince George Spruce Kings in the Doyle Cup, a best-of-seven series between the BCHL and AJHL champions. The Spruce Kings took the series in six games, giving Brooks their only blemish in an otherwise remarkable season.
But it all worked out in the end for the Bandits, as Brooks served as the host team for the national Jr. A championship. And for the second time in tournament history, Brooks claimed the crown, running up a perfect 6-0 record.
The depth of this season’s roster was second to none. Up front, the Bandits had the league’s top scorer in William Lemay, who took the title with 90 points. In the crease, Pierce Charleson and Tanner Marshall combined for the best goals-against average in the league while also allowing the ninth-fewest goals in AJHL history. “We had tremendous leadership and a group that was accountable to each other,” said coach-GM Ryan Papaioannou. “We had a team that went to work every day and was rewarded for what they put in. We had a ton of depth, which made our lineup versatile, and it helped us through injuries when they hit.”
For most clubs that dominate Jr. A hockey, the follow-up season typically serves as a hangover after the team relied heavily on veterans to carry the squad deep into the previous spring. Led by Taylor Makar, the brother of Colorado Avalanche prospect and former Bandits star Cale Makar, the Bandits will have their work cut out for them next year as they look to stay near the top of the AJHL standings.
But right now, that doesn’t really matter: they’re national champions.