If you enjoy high-quality postseason hockey, then you can get your fix this week in Chesterfield Valley.
The amateur hockey team, coached by former NHL defenseman Jeff Brown, have clinched the North Division in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The Bandits begin the playoffs at 6 p.m. Thursday with Game 1 against the Janesville Jets from Wisconsin at the Hardee’s IcePlex in the Valley.
“On behalf of the St. Louis Bandits organization, we would like to congratulate the entire team and coach Jeff Brown on this tremendous achievement,” Kelly Chase, co-owner and vice president of operations, said in a news release. Chase played for the St. Louis Blues in two separate stints between 1989 and 2000.
The Bandits are aiming to be the Robertson Cup Champions for the fourth time. The Cup is awarded to the NAHL playoff champion and also represents USA Hockey's Tier II Junior A national champion. The team features players between the ages of 16 and 20.
The Bandits ended their regular season with 4-1 and 1-0 victories over the Chicago Hitmen last Friday and Saturday. They enter the postseason with a 41-13-4 record (86 points).
The Jets finished in fourth place in the North Division at 35-19-4. St. Louis went 3-3 in the regular season against Janesville. The Bandits have four players from the St. Louis area, including defenseman Nick Carey from Wildwood (37 points), defenseman Patrick Sheehan from Creve Coeur, forward Tucker Long from Ballwin and forward Stephen Bopp from Kirkwood (28 points). Long attended and played club hockey at Parkway West, and in the 20 games he has played this season has scored eight points.
The 26-team NAHL has four divisions, and each one sends four teams to the Robertson Cup Playoffs. The league is in its 35th year and is the largest USA Hockey-sanctioned Junior A circuit.
Coach Brown played for the Blues from 1989 to 1993. Problems related to concussions led to his retirement from the NHL in 1998 at the age of 32. This is his third year as Bandits coach. They won the Robertson Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Chesterfield Patch earlier this season.
"When I retired from the NHL, I stayed in Carolina for a year or so and then we moved back to St. Louis. I started coaching when my boys were old enough, and then Kelly Chase called and asked if I was interested in the job and I said 'sure,' " Brown said.
"There is a lot of great hockey going on, and this is a great brand of hockey," Brown said. "We have to get the hockey lovers to come out and watch, because people are entertained when they do."
Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday, and Game 3 will be played Friday, April 8 at Janesville. Unless there is a series sweep, Game 4 will also be in Janesville and then Game 5 (if necessary) will be at 6 p.m. on April 11 in Chesterfield.
Ticket prices at the Hardee’s IcePlex are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 7-18 (and students with valid ID). Children 6 and under are free. For more information, please call 636-536-4882 or visit www.stlbandits.com.
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