The Brooks Bandits have shown little sign of fatigue following their 2019 National Junior Championship, having started this season undefeated through eight games (8-0-0).
It was a short off-season for Ryan Papaioannou, Head Coach/GM of the reigning National Junior Champion, Brooks Bandits. The group that captured the Bandits’ fifth AJHL title in franchise history, to go along with a National Junior Championship, looks much different heading into this season, as well. The turnover was significant, especially with key contributors moving on. Included on the list of departures were the eight highest scoring players on the team, all who were moving on to their respective NCAA programs.
It was up to Papaioannou and the Bandits scouting staff to construct a new-look roster that could try and defend their (multiple) titles.
“It was a lot of work to rebuild our roster,” reveals Papaioannou. “We lost a lot of guys to the college route, but we’re excited to work with these new guys and so far so good”
It can be tough to rebuild lineups each season, with the ‘window to win’ opening and closing yearly, but watching top players move on gives Papaioannou a sense of fulfillment. He explains that the main objective of Junior hockey is still player development and providing opportunities for players to advance and succeed.
“We’re happy with how our guys did as far as their individual seasons and moving on to college,” Papaioannou admits. “That’s one of the things that is over looked, everybody wants to win, but really the job is to develop and make sure these guys move on and have a home, whether that be academic homes or athletic homes.”
The Brooks Bandits have continued their winning ways, despite the changes up and down the roster. Led by newly named captain, Jakob Lee (13 pts. in 8 GP) and backed by last year’s Bandits Rookie of the Year, Pierce Charleson (7-0-0).
Brooks has gone (8-0-0) to start 2019-2020.