Jaxon Bouchard may require a new nickname. Like “Hero.” Or “Mr. Overtime.”
Known affectionately to his Vernon Interior Savings Bandits teammates as Boosh, Bouchard scored overtime winners in the semifinal and championship, propelling the Bandits to the North Okanagan Bantam Hockey Super League playoff title and a spot at the Okanagan Valley championships this weekend in Chase.
Bouchard scored in triple overtime, giving the Bandits a 4-3 win over the regular-season champion Salmon Arm Hornets in a thrilling championships game at Kal Tire Place North.
The Boosh ended things halfway through the third overtime period with an ankle-breaking toe drag and snap shot that emptied the Bandits’ bench and created the inevitable dog pile.
Vernon trailed 3-0 early but cut the lead to 3-1 before the ice clean. On fresh ice to start the second half, the Bandits didn’t take a shift or stride off the rest of the way. Will Russell and Zach Casagrande were forechecking machines and kept the pressure on the Salmon Arm defence the rest of the way. With nine minutes left to play, Bryce Mellors tied things up with his first goal of the season, a wicked wrist shot that found the back of the net high on the glove side that fired up the Bandits’ bench in front of a good-sized crowd.
Both team’s goalies put on a terrific display of goaltending in the first and second overtime periods, save after save, chance after chance, and there were crossbars and posts.
In semifinal action the Bandits defeated the Lumby Stars for the second time in the playoffs with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory at Hucul Pond in Salmon Arm. Bryden Murray led the way with two goals and Bouchard netted the overtime winner. Hunter Farrell was relentless all game, a man on a mission.
The Bandits finished fourth in the eight-team league but peaked at just the right time and finished off their Super League with seven straight wins. In the playoff seeding portion, the Bandits disposed of Vernon Rysen 8-4, snuck one out against the Lumby Stars at Pat Duke Memorial Arena 3-2 and dismantled the Winfield Bruins 8-5.
The defence core was strong all season for the Bandits but especially in the playoffs, blocking shots, winning puck battles, winning races and making great decisions. The blueliners included Pwalxken Joe, Brady Devries, Brayden Datson, Ethan Wilby, Connor Jones and Luke Walsh. The strong goaltending duo of Lucas Aiechele and Aidan Lawrence took their games to a new level, getting better and better as the playoffs got deeper.
Wingers Connor Johnson, Tyler Martin, Eric Walderamas, Ben Olsen and Jackson Klammer were hard on the forecheck and backcheck all semifinal long. Creating traffic and confusion for the Lumby goalie all evening.
Bandits coaching staff includes Derek Murray, Troy Jones, Mike Johnson and Ryan Mellors, team manager is Katrina Mellors.