As he prepared to enter his second season with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the fall of 2010, Cam Maclise lost his urge to play in the Western Hockey League.
As it turns out, the Oil Kings’ loss was the Brooks Bandits’ gain. Make that a capital gain.
Maclise fell out of favour with the Oil Kings coaching staff — or visa versa — and the former Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Rebels forward was en route to Brooks to join the Bandits and boyhood friend and fellow Lacombe product Andy Williams.
“I had kind of a bad experience and decided to leave Edmonton,” Maclise, the Bandits acting captain said Tuesday at the Olds Sports Complex where Brooks blanked the Grizzlys 3-0 to compete a sweep of the best-of-seven Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division final.
“Andy was playing in Brooks, so I went down and introduced myself to the coaching staff and that’s how it worked out. I’m having fun there, we all are, especially this year. You can’t beat a season like this.”
Actually, the Bandits’ season will be even better if they prevail in the league final against either Spruce Grove or Fort McMurray and advance further along the Royal Bank Cup trail. But so far, so good, and Maclise has played a big part in the club’s march to the AJHL championship series.
The six-foot-four, 195-pound centre was second in team scoring during the regular season with 32 goals and 82 points after compiling 26 goals and 51 points during the 2010-11 campaign. He’s currently tied for the team lead in playoff scoring with nine points (3-6) in eight games following four-game sweeps of the Calgary Canucks and Grizzlys.
“Cam’s a pretty good player, he’s as skilled as you get for a big man in this league,” said Brooks head coach Ryan Papaioannou. “He’s physical, he competes hard, he hounds the puck, shoots the pucks, plays the point on the power play. He does everything you could possibly want him to and he’s still only 19. He’s been a great player for our team.”
Maclise actually turned 20 earlier this month, but he’s eligible to return to Brooks for one more season.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “You can only play junior hockey for so long, so you have to take advantage of it.”
Maclise, who along with Williams and team captain Cory Kloss of Red Deer, are the Central Alberta products on the Bandits’ roster, has wondered what might have been if he had stayed in Edmonton.
“Do I wish it would have worked out better there? Yes, but it didn’t and I ended up (in Brooks) and I don’t regret it at all,” he said.
With Kloss still recovering from a broken leg — an injury he suffered six weeks ago — Maclise is showing his colours as a leader while wearing the captain’s C in the interim.
“That’s something new for me. Cory is out so I’m willing to accept that role,” said Maclise. “Obviously, you don’t have to have a letter to be a leader. You just do what you can to set a good example.”
The Bandits have missed Kloss, insisted Papaioannou.
“We had a chance to acquire Cory a couple of summers ago and he’s been fantastic for us,” said the Bandits bench boss. “He’s a great leader on and off the ice. It’s been tough to get through this (playoff) round and the first round without him but hopefully he’ll be back for the next series.”
Kloss had four goals and 32 points during his second season in Brooks. After graduating from the midget AAA Optimist Rebels in 2009, he played one winter with the Camrose Kodiaks before being traded to the Bandits during the off-season.
“It turned out to be the best thing for me,” said the five-foot-10, 183-pound defenceman. “I wasn’t very happy about it at the time, but I went down and met with the coaches and the people in the organization. I knew right away it was a good fit and everything just progressed from there.
“It was a perfect place for me. I moved from assistant captain last season to captain this year, my last in the league. Being with this group of guys on this team . . . I couldn’t ask for more.”
Kloss isn’t sure what his future holds with the exception of at least one more playoff series.
“I’ve talked to a few schools as far as playing collegiate hockey next season,” he offered. “But right now I’m undecided. It’s still up in the air. I’ll wait to see what happens with this season first.”
Williams, a five-foot-seven, 171-pound centre, has committed to Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis., and next season will suit up with the Sabres, an NCAA Division III team.
The speedy forward sniped four goals and collected eight points in 36 regular-season games and has been a consistent contributor during the Bandits’ current playoff run with three goals and an assist.
Williams, 21, played three games for Brooks in 2008-09 after being acquired — along with older brother, Matt, who also attended Marian University — from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. He is now completing his third full season with the club.
“Andy is a guy who takes a lot of important faceoffs for us,” said Papaioannou. “He’s always on the power play and is definitely more of a role guy. But it’s a huge role that he fills very well.”
“I’m more of a defensive, shutdown type of player. That’s kind of the role I’ve always taken pride in playing,” said Williams.
Clearly, the Bandits are loaded with offensive depth. Brooks finished first overall in the AJHL this season with a 47-7-0-6 record — thus gaining a first-round playoff bye — and was the league’s top scoring club with 273 goals, an average of 4.55 per game.
“We have so much up front,” said Williams. “Everyone talks about our offence, but we also have role players as well as seven tremendous defencemen.”
Williams insisted the Bandits do not care which of the North Division finalists advance to the league final.
“We’ll be excited to meet either team. Both teams are very good and we’ve had good game against both of them,” he said. “We’re confident right now. We know it’s going to be a huge battle against the north but we think we can take it all.”
“We set a high standard for ourselves. We know how good we are and how we should play,” said the captain. “Teams like Olds and Calgary are teams we think we should beat every night when we’re playing our game and that confidence is something we need to carry into the AJHL final.”
• The Grizzlys can return 17 players for the 2012-13 season, including Spencer Dorowicz of Olds and Tanner Dunkle of Red Deer. Scott Antonsen of Red Deer has graduated.