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PREVIEW: Bandits host Eagles in first ever BCHL Rocky Mountain Challenge

The Brooks Bandits and the Surrey Eagles are set to meet in the first ever BCHL Rocky Mountain Challenge, which will see a best-of-three championship series take over the CRA this weekend.

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Game 1: Friday, May 31 @ 7:00 PM
Game 2: Saturday, June 1 @ 7:00 PM
Game 3: Sunday, June 2 @ 5:00 PM *if necessary

All games at the Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks.

The Eagles are the first BC-based team to play in Brooks since the Bandits beat Prince George at the 2019 National Junior A Championship in front of a sold-out CRA crowd. (The Cranbrook Bucks played in Brooks during an exhibition game in September of 2022).

Both teams finished first overall in the Regular Season standings in Alberta and BC. The Bandits went seven games with the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Semifinal, followed by a five game Alberta Final against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

Providence-commit and NHL Draft Eligible forward Logan Sawyer was named Alberta Cup Playoff MVP, while fellow Draft Eligible forward and Penn State-commit Nathan Free and Clarkson-commit Caelan Fitzpatrick rounded out the top three in Alberta Playoff scoring. Johnny Hicks had a 2.09 GAA, starting every game for Brooks.

The Eagles had some lengthy series as well to get to the summit of the Fred Page Cup. They opened their playoffs beating the Cowichan Valley Capitals in five games, followed by a six game series over the Victoria Grizzlies. The Coastal Conference Final went seven games, as the Eagles ultimately prevailed over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Surrey faced the powerhouse Penticton Vees in the BC Final, and despite dropping two of the first three games, bounced back and defeated the defending champion Vees in six games. It was Surrey’s first championship since 2013, becoming the first team from BC’s Lower Mainland to win since Coquitlam did it in 2014.

Surrey’s offence is led by Yale-commit Micah Berger, Merrimack-commit Caden Cranston and Quinnipiac-commit Aaron Schwartz. Sacred Heart-commit Ajeet Gundarah had a .939 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average in the BC Playoffs.

History of Brooks vs Surrey

This weekend isn’t the first time Brooks has faced Surrey.

They last met in the 2013 RBC Cup in Summerside, PEI. Brandon Bruce, Mark Reners, Tyson McCallum, Anthony Petruzzelli and Cam Maclise each scored in a 5-2 Bandits win in the final game of the Round Robin. Brooks went on to win the 2013 RBC Cup, while Surrey was denied a chance at revenge following a semifinal loss to the host Summerside. They would have to wait until the 2023-24 season to reclaim the Fred Page Cup as BC Champions.

The Bandits and Eagles met earlier at the 2013 Western Canada Cup in Nanaimo, BC. Brooks opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Surrey thanks to 40-saves from Michael Fredrick. The Eagles defeated Brooks 4-1 in the WCC Final, which meant the Bandits had to take down Yorkton 1-0 in the Runner-up game to get into the 2013 RBC Cup.

Both teams have produced a wealth of alumni. For Brooks, there’s recent players like Cale and Taylor Makar, Aiden Fink, Ryan McAllister, TJ Hughes, Brandon Scanlin, Corson Ceulemans, Parker Foo and Jeff Malott, while Cam Maclise, Anthony Petruzzelli, Anthony Paskaruk, Matt Wilkins, Curtis Glencross and Chad Johnson are some of the names from the earlier years.

Surrey boasts alumni such as current NHLers Brandon Tanev, Danton Heinen and Cale’s usual d-partner in Colorado, Devon Toews. Scott Gomez, who’s now coaching for the team, also played for Surrey.