AP NEWS

Streakers!

March 1, 2019
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Andranik Armstrong and Joe Gambardella have never met.

Armstrong, 19, plays junior hockey in Canada. Gambardella, 25, plays professional hockey in the U.S.

But they have four things in common. They’re both forwards. They’re roughly the same size. They both have ties to UMass Lowell. And they’re both part of amazing winning streaks.

Armstrong, a UML recruit who will arrive on campus in 2019 or 2020, plays for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Amazingly, Brooks will take a 31-game winning streak into tonight’s game against Okotoks.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s something that hasn’t been done before, at least in this league,” he said, referring to Brooks reaching the 110-point mark with two regular-season games left to set a AJHL record. “It’s a pretty cool thing to be part of.”

Armstrong, a Germany native who lives in Alexandria, Va., and Brooks haven’t lost since Nov. 17. That’s not a typo.

Overall, Brooks is 55-3. No, that’s not a mistake, either.

Meanwhile, in California, Gambardella is a major reason the Bakersfield Condors will take a 17-game winning streak into tonight’s game against Iowa. That ties the second-longest streak in American Hockey League history.

“It’s been a fun ride,” said Gambardella, not long after getting in a round of golf with a teammate after practice Wednesday. “It’s fun coming to the rink every day. It’s a testament to the character we have in the locker room. We take it one game at a time.”

Gambardella, a 2017 graduate of UMass Lowell, is in his second full season of professional hockey after an outstanding four-year career as a River Hawk.

Armstrong is well aware of Gambardella’s career.

Both are 5-foot-9, but built like tanks, one reason Armstrong has been compared to Gambardella.

“Getting compared to a guy like that is an honor,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong is used to winning. He played three seasons at Kimball Union Academy under former UML head coach Tim Whitehead and led KUA to New England prep school titles his junior and senior years.

The transition to being the guy to being a guy on the top-ranked junior team in Canada was “tough at first. It took a part of time to adjust to it and embrace it,” Armstrong said of playing less minutes.

Armstrong has nine goals and 23 assists in 50 games.

He says when he tells friends what Brooks’ record is, many think he’s kidding.

Gambardella is in the hottest stretch of his pro career. In his last 13 games, he’s racked up 20 points, 13 coming on goals. He’s the fifth-leading goal scorer in the AHL with 25 and he has 41 points in 42 games.

Typically, Gambardella remains humble.

“We think we have a really good thing going. None of my success comes without the help of my team,” he said.

Gambardella recently played four games in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. He’s not focused on getting called up to the NHL. He’s focused on helping Bakersfield net win No. 18 in a row and preparing for a clash tonight with one of his former UML roommates and best friends, Michael Kapla.

One future UML player. One past UML star. Separated by roughly 1,511 miles, but bonded by amazing streaks.

Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter@BarryScanlonSun