The Brooks Bandits were looking for yet another entry into the AJHL record books on Friday night, but the Grande Prairie Storm would have none of it. In front of 2496 raucous fans at the Canada Games Arena, the Storm scored three unanswered third period goals to skate to a 4-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Bandits.
With 20 consecutive wins, Brooks had already set a league record for the longest win-streak out of the gate. Another victory would have tied them for the longest-ever single season victory streak. Instead, though, it’s the Storm who enjoy the longest current winning streak, as they’ve now put together nine straight victories.
Marc-Etienne Drapeau was the offensive hero for the home squad. His two goals just under two minutes apart, early in the third period, broke open a contest which had been knotted at one goal apiece since the middle of the first period. Coach Blaine Bablitz was very pleased with what Drapeau and his line brought to the table, especially in the third.
“When you’re playing against a team as good as the Bandits, your best players have to be your best players. I thought our guys raised their level of play, which was the difference in the third period.”
Jake Matkin had opened the scoring three minutes into the game, but the Bandits tied things up about ten minutes later on the powerplay. After that goal, the Storm penalty killers were flawless in the final four attempts against the vaunted Bandits powerplay. They had to be particularly sharp, Bablitz noted, late in the game, after Sasha Laroque took a double minor.
“Killing off that four-minute powerplay was huge. Our PK unit didn’t panic, as they stuck to their lanes and blocked a number of shots…and when the shots did get through, Nick was solid in making the saves.”
Nick, of course, being Nick Kulmanovsky, who was brilliant again on the night, in getting named the first star of the game. Kulmanovsky made 30 saves on the night, many of the brilliant variety, in winning his sixth start in a row. Kulmanovsky only had a chance to finally breathe easy when Mike Forsyth iced the win with an empty netter and just 34 ticks left on the clock.
The win keeps Grande Prairie two points back of Spruce Grove for first in the AJHL North, as the Saints also won Friday. The Storm, however, enjoy six games in hand on the Saints.
Storm are right back in action Saturday night, when another South Division team comes calling. Canmore hasn’t won twenty in a row, like Brooks, but with a winning record thus far this AJHL season, the Storm can’t afford to take the Eagles lightly. Gametime will be 7:30 pm.
– Story submitted by Don Whiteford of www.PeaceCountrySports.com