Two of Canada’s most successful Junior-A teams in the last decade will clash for a pair of pre-season games this weekend at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Penticton Vees host the defending RBC Cup-champion Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in games Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.
“You’re always excited to play against a team from another league, especially a great program like Brooks who just won a national title,” said Vees president, GM and head coach Fred Harbinson.
Fittingly, both teams come into the weekend undefeated in the pre-season, with the Vees 4-0 and Brooks 2-0 after two straight wins over AJHL rivals Okotoks Oilers.
The Bandits and Vees have played four prior exhibition games and last met for keeps twice in the 2016-17 playoffs.
Brooks beat the Vees 2-1 in a shootout at the Western Canada Cup in Penticton. Both teams advanced to the RBC Cup national championship in Cobourg, Ont. where Brooks again shaded the Vees 2-1 in overtime in the round-robin.
Their other big playoff clash came in the Doyle Cup B.C.-Alberta championship in 2012, with the Vees winning a best-of-seven series over Brooks 4-1. The Vees, of course, went on to win the RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask. that season.
“We’ve had some really intense and exciting games whenever we’ve played them,” said Harbinson. “Both teams will be in contention again this season and I think both will be really fired up for these games. It’s a great way for us to finish up the exhibition (slate) as we get ready for regular season play next weekend.”
The Bandits, despite only being in the league since 2000, have an impressive resume to say the least.
GM/head coach Ryan Papaioannou has guided the Bandits to five AJHL titles in 10 years at the helm.
The Bandits won the RBC Cup in 2013 and 2019, and also lost in the final in overtime (to Cobourg) in 2017, and in the semifinal in 2016 (to West Kelowna).
Last season, the Bandits fashioned an incredible league record 57-3-0 mark for 114 points and breezed through the AJHL playoffs.
The Bandits fell 4-2 to the Prince George Spruce Kings in the Doyle Cup final, but the Bandits were already in the RBC Cup as the host team.
The Bandits ultimately beat the Spruce Kings 4-3 in the RBC Cup championship game in Brooks.
Among their outstanding alumni is Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar, a fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
The Bandits will also play the Vernon Vipers Sunday at Kal Tire Place in Vernon.
ICE CHIPS: Tickets for the weekend games are just $5. If you can’t make it to the rink, the game will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com with the voice of the Vees, Trevor Miller… The Vees open the regular season with six road games, starting Sept. 6-7 with two games in Trail against the Smoke Eaters. The regular season opener is Friday, Sept. 27 versus West Kelowna.