PHOTO – Canmore goaltender Ryan Bontorin faced 54 Bandit shots on Monday and was named the Eagles “Star of the Game”, but Canmore still lost Game Three of their playoff series 6-2. (photo cortesy of Pam Doyle)

Story courtesy of Russ Ullyot

Postmedia – Crag and Canyon

The Canmore Eagles have been pushed to the brink. On Tuesday night, they will need a Herculean effort to stave off the end of their season.

The Brooks Bandits recorded a 6-2 victory over Canmore to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Alberta Junior Hockey League playoff series.

Six different players scored for the visitors, playing before 525 fans at the Canmore Recreation Centre. Dylan McCrory scored his third goal of the series – one in each game – while Jesse Pereira and Josh McKechney recorded their second playoff goals.

Also scoring for the Bandits, registering their first playoffs goals, were Derek Lodermeier, Joe O’Connor and Tristan Thompson.

Canmore goals came from Brett Radford, his third of the playoffs, and Nolan Kurylo, his second.

As featured in every game of the series, Brooks heavily outshot Canmore 54-21. Ryan Bontorin was in goal for the Eagles. Garret Hughson was in goal for Bandits. The two goaltenders have played every minute of this South Division semifinal matchup.

Brooks won the first two games, both played in Brooks, by the scores of 8-0 and 4-0.

Game 4 goes Tuesday night, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre.

The Eagles need a victory to extend the series, with Game 5 set for Brooks, 7 p.m. on Friday, if necessary.

The favourite to win the AJHL title, Brooks’ roster of players is pretty deep and that is proving challenging for Canmore.

“I thought we played pretty good at times,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles general manager and head coach. “They [Brooks] seemed to jump on every turnover we gave them. We turned it over in the second period when we got scrambly and into some penalty trouble.

“Their [Brooks’] depth is key. They hit with you with so many waves. You have to manage the puck better if you want to contain that. … It’s not an excuse, you’ve got to be prepared to play at that level: play with pace and play with some tenacity.”

Matt Forchuk returned to the Eagles’ lineup. He played just 10 minutes of the opening game and missed Game 2 after taking a shot off the shin. He would play a part in the Eagles’ first goal of this series, and it came on the power play, although it would not show up on the scoresheet. He would also not see the end of this game.

Brooks took only three penalties in the first two games of this series but had three in the first five minutes of this game. Radford scooped up a rebound right in front of the Brooks goal and slipped it past Hughson at 4:59 while Bandit Logan Mick was serving the first of a double minor – for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Braiden Doucette took the shot from the left point after receiving a cross-ice pass from Logan Ferguson at the right point, who had received a pass from Forchuk.

It was the first goal conceded by Hughson, who went 124:59 before being scored on in these playoffs.

Lodermeier would tie the game when Bontorin was unable to corral a long shot and the Bandits captain was at the right wing post and slapped the puck into the goal at 13:55.

The Bandits would take the lead when the Eagles fumbled the puck in front of their own goal while killing the first penalty assessed to them – Doucette for interference. O’Connor swooped in and lifted the puck over Bontorin at 16:44.

The Eagles held an 8-4 edge in shots at one point of the period but the Bandits held a 14-9 edge at the end of 20 minutes.

That dominance continued in the second period, as Brooks had the first 10 shots. It took Canmore more than four minutes to get into the offensive zone and 7½ minutes to get their first shot on goal The Bandits would outshoot the Eagles 22-4 in the period.

Canmorite Thompson would give Brooks its third goal when he moved in from the point and after taking a pass from the right wing boards from McKechney wired a shot from the high slot over Bontorin’s left shoulder at 9:10.

In the third period, it was a feisty Canmore attack to get back in this game and this series but the goals would not come and in the end they would surrender three more to Brooks.

Forchuk’s night ended with 10:12 to play when he was given his third stick-related penalty — a cross check after two slashing penalties – which earned him an automatic game ejection.

On the ensuing power play, Brooks would make it 4-1. McCrory fired the puck past Bontorin from just above the goal line on the right wing side at 11:43.

The Bandits would add two more goals, by Pereira at 12:35 and McKechney at 17:10.

Canmore would get the last goal of this game when Kurylo, off a feed from Daylan Marchi, from behind the Brooks’ goal line, slapped a shot past Hughson at 18:55.

Milne said there is not much to discuss with the players when it comes to Tuesday’s game. Everyone will be well aware of what is at stake.

“They know what they have to do. There are no structural changes we have to make,” Milne said. “It is just going to come down to we have to compete, battle… like it matters and it counts.”

The Eagles are not the only team facing elimination after Monday’s action was completed:

Saints 7 at Crusaders 3

At Sherwood Park, Brandon Biro had two goals and one assist – and now has six points (3G-3A) in the series – as Spruce Grove took a 3-0 lead. The game featured a line brawl with 18 seconds to play, which resulted in five majors and 14 game misconducts. A total of 237 minutes in penalties were handed out in the third period, which will certainly earn a league review.

Wolverines 2 at Bobcats 7

At Lloydminster, the Royal Bank Cup hosts put Whitecourt on the ropes as Kris Spriggs was one of seven goal scorers. He also registered two assists.

Both series resume Tuesday.

On Sunday:

Oilers 2 at Kodiaks 5

At Camrose, Cole McBride and Cam Gotaas each registered one goal and one assist as the hometown Kodiaks won 5-2 to take a 2-0 lead over the Oilers.

On Saturday night, Nelson Gadoury had one goal and one assist — he would follow it up with a two-assist game on Sunday — in a 4-1 Kodiaks victory.

The series resumes Tuesday night in Okotoks.

EAGLES NEST: Canmore’s power play, the best in the league during the regular season, was 1-for-6 in the game and is just 1-for-9 in the series. Brooks power play is 5-for-13 in the series. … Canmore scratches were Ryley Risling, Jake Ashton, Brayden Biccum and Cole Noble. … Should the series go six games, that game will be played in Canmore on Sunday, 6 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre. A seventh game is scheduled for Brooks, 7 p.m. on Tuesday. …. Canmore’s novice Tier 2 team was recognized before the game for winning the Central Alberta title.