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By Chris Middlebrook, 03/05/14, 8:00AM CST


It was clear from the beginning of the 2013-2014 season that the Bandolier Bandy Club would be a force to be reckoned with. They posted an impressive undefeated regular season and ultimately won the 28th Annual North American Cup. On March 1, the Bandolier completed the season by winning the playoff championships, becoming the 2014 USA First Division National Champs. The title is the seventh for the Bandolier since 2001. In conjunction with their eight American Cup Championship wins in the last 13 years, the Bandolier Bandy Club has cemented their position as USA Bandy’s most decorated team of the new millennium.


The Bandolier faced a familiar opponent, the Minnesota Blades, in the best of three championship series. The Blades have an impressive four championship victories since 2005 and put up a fight against the Bandolier Bandy Club. The 2013-2014 Blades are made up of a veteran squad, led by former US National Team players Steve Nelson, Andy Fronek, BJ Bayers and Bobby Scott. Rookie sensation and summer rink bandy league MVP Andy Sackrison also skates for the Blades. A sharp contrast to this is the Bandolier roster, which represents a strong youth movement in US Bandy. The Bandolier Bandy Club boasts ten skaters age-22 or younger, four of which are 18 years old or younger. Three of the young skaters, Peter Knutson, Wyatt Wenzel and Ian Middlebrook have already played in two World Championships for Team USA. On the other end of the spectrum, the Bandolier squad includes 35-year old fullback Joel Andell and keeper Tom Stone, as well as the team’s oldest player, fullback Kevin Bowen at 50. Anchoring the team are 25-year old team captain Andrew Knutson, 28-year old midfielder John Arundel (USA Captain) and 29-year old forward Jon Keseley, all of which are mainstays on the US National Team.


The best of three championship series began on February 24, when the Bandolier beat the Blades 8-5. Jon Keseley, USA Bandy Player of the Year, scored four goals and had two assists. Ian Middlebrook added two goals and John Arundel and Peter Blaney scored a goal each. The four goals for Keseley brought his combined season goals (the Bandolier regular and postseason, Team USA and the World Championship) to 95. This 95-goal total is a new record for US players, obliterating the previous records of Mark Perrault of the Reindeer with 65 goals in the 1992-1993 season and Chris Preiss of the Bandolier with 61 during the 2003-2004 season. Unfortunately, Keseley missed the final games on March 1, as he was scheduled to be in Indonesia on business.


The second game of the playoff series began at 5:30 Saturday, March 1 with wind chills hovering around -20 degrees. After 17 minutes, the Blades made an impressive showing, leading 5-0. The Bandolier came back during the second half with strength and confidence but could not bridge the scoring gap. The Blades posted a 10-6 victory against the Bandoliers, forcing the tournament into a third mini-game, composed of two 15-minute halves.


With only a few minutes to regroup after their loss, the Bandolier immediately asserted themselves during the championship’s third game. In the first half, Ian Middlebrook and Wyatt Wenzel scored, bringing the Bandolier to a 2-0 lead. On the defensive end, fullback Joel Andell stripped the ball during a Blades breakaway, keeping them off the board. The second half began with a corner stroke goal for the Blades with just ten minutes remaining. The Bandolier faced wave after wave of Blade attacks, but keeper Tom Stone and the defense, led by sweeper Andrew Knutson, held strong. John Arundel sealed the championship win for the Bandolier with a breakaway goal in the last 20 seconds. The Bandolier triumphed and John Arundel was awarded the playoff MVP award. The final Bandolier posted a final 2013-2014 record of 13-2-3.


Bandolier roster


2 Peter Blaney 18

3 Connor Thury 17

4 John Keseley 29

7 Kevin Bowen 50

8 Henry Venuta 17

9 Andrew Knutson* 25

10 Peter Knutson 22

15 Joel Andell 35

18 Wyatt Wenzel 22

19 John Arundel 28

20 Nate Perpich 22

21 Jake Perpich 22

33 Tom Stone 35

55 Jack Blaney 16

77 Ian Middlebrook 22

89 Sam Blaisdell 22


*Team Captain


Head Coach: Chris Middlebrook

Assistant Coach: John Magnuson