Hunter Wallace’s hockey season ended the way many players dream of – with a championship cup and a parade.
The son of Oak Lake’s Tod and Penny Wallace was one of the guests of honour at a Brooks, Alta. parade after he helped that community’s Bandits win the Centennial Cup. The squad claimed the national Junior A championship by defeating the Pickering (Ont.) Panthers, 4-1, in late May in Estevan.
“Just looking back on the season, it was so much fun,” Wallace said. “All the stuff we went through and all of the winning we did – it was nice to celebrate with the city of Brooks and to celebrate with the team.”
He was greatly appreciative of his family being able to attend the Centennial Cup in Saskatchewan. His parents were in attendance and even his sister KJ and brother Riley were able to be there to cheer him on for some games.
“It felt like I was playing midget hockey again with the Southwest Cougars having my mom and dad there,” he said. “I love playing in front of them. To win a national championship in front of the people that got me this far in hockey was a great moment.”
A 5-foot-7, 165-pound forward, Wallace recorded two goals and two assist in five games at the national championship. He scored in the team’s tournament opening victory and had a goal and an assist in its second win. Wallace was a physical presence in Brooks’ third game of the tournament, receiving six penalty minutes. He sat out one game due to an injury. He returned to pick up an assist in the semifinals and help his team beat Pickering in the championship tilt.
“I tried to provide energy for the guys and play my role,” Wallace said. “I think I did that to the best of my abilities.”
In the Centennial Cup finals, the Bandits found themselves trailing 1-0 in the third period.
“As soon as we got that first one, there was a huge momentum shift on our bench,” Wallace said. “Our energy started picking up. Obviously, we scored 30 seconds later, and we kept putting the puck in the net.”
The Bandits enjoyed their time on and off the ice in Saskatchewan.
“Going to a tournament like that is a huge honour,” Wallace said. “They treated us great there. Everyone was super lovely there. It was just a great time. They put on a great tournament. I think I speak for the entire Brooks Bandits organization. Just a big thanks for having us out.”
The Bandits were a juggernaut this season en route to winning its second straight Centennial Cups and third overall. Brooks triumphed when the national championships were last held in 2019. This season the squad posted the best record in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. It lost only once in the AJHL playoffs. At the Centennial Cup, the team was undefeated. In Estevan, the Bandits averaged 7.33 goals for and 1.67 against. What made them so successful?
“We were led by a great group of leaders,” Wallace said. “Our first line with TJ (Hughes), Devin Phillips, and Ryan McAllister obviously led our team offensively, but I think we are such a deep team that it is tough to score goals against us.”
In a successful 18-year-old rookie junior season, Wallace scored 18 goals and accumulated 40 points in 58 games. He received the team’s Hustler Award at the end of the regular season. In the AJHL playoffs, Wallace posted four goals and six points in 13 games. Brooks head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou praised Wallace’s speed, offensive skill and the physicality he brought to the league finals. Early in the season Wallace committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state beginning in the fall of 2023.
With several veteran Bandits moving onto the next level, Wallace will have an opportunity next season to take on an even bigger role. He plans to be on the ice four days a week this summer and compete with friends in the Wendy’s Summer Hockey League in Brandon. Wallace will also be working out six days a week, including under the guidance of Virden’s Brock Davies.
“I’m trying to come into camp game ready,” Wallace said.