brooks trenton returns feature

Unfinished business

After losing in the semifinals one year ago, the Brooks Bandits and Trenton Golden Hawks have won their way back to the RBC Cup with hopes of changing the ending

Katie Brickman
May 16, 2017

After disappointing finishes a season ago, the Brooks Bandits and Trenton Golden Hawks are back.

Both teams lost out in the semifinals at the 2016 RBC Cup in Lloydminster, but have returned with their sights set on redemption, and the two wins they didn’t get in the Border City.

“Being on that team last year, it left a sour taste in all of our mouths,” said Brooks captain Nick Prkusic, one of seven returnees for the Bandits. “I think we had the team to do it last year and we just didn’t get it done.”

The Bandits have dominated on the way to Cobourg, going 51-5-4 in the regular season and 17-1 in the playoffs to claim AJHL and Western Canada Cup titles. With that momentum, they are ready to finish what they started last year.

“I think it was a tough way to go out last year and we have some unfinished business,” said Bandits head coach and general manager, Ryan Papaioannou. “We have a lot of guys moving on to college after this season, so it is that ‘last chance’ mentality and we are going to make the best of it.”

With the experience of a previous RBC Cup appearance, their journey to get back to Canada’s National Junior A Championship has given the Bandits a sharper focus on what they need to do to be successful.

“It is huge for us to have that experience. Those guys suffered a loss last year that was tough to swallow,” said Papaioannou. “For our returning players, they wanted to carry that winning culture forward. We want to prove some things.”

As for the Golden Hawks, they set the bar high this season and are ready to chase their ultimate goal. After reaching Game 7 of the OJHL final, Trenton claimed the Dudley Hewitt Cup on home ice, becoming the first team since 1994 to successfully defend the Central Region championship.

With confidence in their team, and having already faced adversity, the Golden Hawks are ready.

“We’ve had a successful season, but we battled injuries and some roster changes throughout the year and I think that has made us stronger as a unit,” said co-captain Josh Allan. “We will continue to battle adversity here at the RBC Cup … it’s something we are used to. We are ready to compete for what we want.”

After watching his team drop the semifinal to the host Bobcats last year, despite topping the preliminary round standings, the challenge for Trenton head coach Jerome Dupont is to harness the energy of his team when it matters most.

“The season is full of ups and downs and we try and keep everything as level as possible,” explained Dupont. “The key is to pace yourself. I think if there is balance between playing and downtime, you will be more successful. We discussed what happened last year and will be doing some things differently … hopefully that helps us reach our goal.”

Allan is one of 10 returnees for the Golden Hawks and thinks having that veteran presence, and the experience of a previous run to the final four will help during the tournament.

“Last year, we experienced it all for the first time. We were nervous and didn’t know what to expect. This year, we know what it is like and how to feel during the tournament,” he said. “Those veterans add a lot to the room and we know what we are doing and that we belong here. It is good to have that experience in the room.

As the Bandits and Golden Hawks return to chase a national title, players don’t have to look too far to find what it feels like to win; both head coaches have RBC Cup championships on their résumés – Papaioannou in 2013 with Brooks, and Dupont in 2007 with the Aurora Tigers.

In the lead up to the tournament, they shared some of their wisdom with their players.

“We watched a bit of video of that [2013] championship just to see what it was like as the minutes and seconds ticked down,” said Papaioannou. “The biggest thing we have been able to share as a staff is just to stay in the week – you don’t have to win every game, you just need to play your best hockey on the weekend. So we are cognizant of how long these 10 days will be, but want them to enjoy the experience.”

“[Winning] is not easy,” Dupont said. “I told them to savour the moment. Just being here is a great honour. We aren’t just happy to be here, but it is exciting. It is important to take it all in and enjoy it by taking it one day at a time.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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