When the Flin Flon Bombers finished their regular season with nine losses
in their last 12 games, few fans – if any – gave the Bombers a realistic
chance of representing the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) at the
2022 Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons.
When the Bombers dropped the first two games of their opening-round series
against the Battlefords Stars, that already-small group of believers likely
got a little bit smaller.
But somewhere on the 601-kilometre journey between Battlefords and Flin
Flon, a switch flipped.
The Bombers got on the board with a 4-2 victory in Game 3 and erased a
two-goal, third-period deficit to win 4-3 in overtime in Game 4, the second
of what would end up being seven-consecutive postseason wins.
“You lose that game in overtime, you're down 3-1 in the series,” says
Bombers head coach and general manager Mike Reagan. “Instead we win it,
it’s a 2-2 series and it's a best-of-three now. That just showed a lot of
character and some heart. From there, we were able to start winning those
one-goal hockey games.”
Flin Flon eliminated the Stars in six games and took the first three from
the favoured Humboldt Broncos, a team that had finished 19 points clear of
the Bombers during the regular season.
After an overtime loss in Game 4, Flin Flon knocked out the Broncos in Game
5 with a 1-0 victory, getting 37 saves from standout goaltender Cal Schell,
who blanked Humboldt’s high-octane offence twice in the series.
With the Estevan Bruins, hosts of the Centennial Cup, having finished their
sweep of the Yorkton Terriers a few days earlier, the Bombers’ semifinal
series win meant they had clinched a place at Canada’s National Junior A
But that wasn’t good enough. Flin Flon wanted to go through the front door
as SJHL champions.
The teams split the first four games, with both winning twice on home ice.
Back in Estevan for Game 5, the Bombers took a lead into the final minute,
only for Eric Houk to tie it with 5.8 seconds to go and Olivier Pouliot to
win it in overtime.
Flin Flon forced a Game 7, but couldn’t find the back of the net in a 2-0
Despite the disappointment, Reagan has focused on the positives as his team
gets ready to face league champions from across the country.
“For us to take Estevan to Game 7, and knowing that they're built for this
national championship, I think it just shows that we belong there,” he
says. “They're probably one of the top two, three teams in the tournament
and this just gives us the feeling that we have a shot at this as well.
“Every [other] team is coming in feeling very confident about themselves
because they just won a league title. We're the only team that has to bury
that behind us and refocus. It's a lot of mental preparation.”
Flin Flon opens its
Centennial Cup schedule
against the Northern Ontario Hockey League champions, the Soo Thunderbirds,
on May 19.
HOW THEY GOT TO ESTEVAN
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated Battlefords 4-2 (3-7, 2-4, 4-2, 4-3 OT, 3-1, 6-2)
Semifinal: defeated Humboldt 4-1 (3-1, 3-2 OT, 2-0, 2-3 OT, 1-0)
SJHL championship: lost to Estevan 4-3 (2-4, 0-2, 4-3, 7-1, 2-3 OT, 6-1,
Record (W-L-OTL): 34-21-3 (5th in SJHL)
Goals for: 206 (5th in SJHL)
Goals against: 158 (3rd in SJHL)
Power play: 62 for 172 (22.7% – 2nd in SJHL)
Penalty killing: 172 of 216 (79.6% – 8th in SJHL)
Longest winning streak: 7 (Dec. 18-Jan. 25)
Top 3 scorers:
• Xavier Lapointe – 19G 31A 50P (19th in SJHL)
• Zak Smith – 20G 28A 48P (23rd in SJHL)
• Jaxon Martens – 19G 27A 46P (26th in SJHL)
Goals for: 53
Goals against: 41
Power play: 13 for 76 (17.1%)
Penalty killing: 57 of 67 (85.1%)
Top 3 scorers:
• Drew Kuzma – 9G 8A 17P
• Zak Smith – 9G 8A 17P
• Jaeden Mercier – 7G 7A 14P
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
1993 – Flin Flon Bombers | 5th place | 0-4 | 6GF 19GA
2001 – Flin Flon Bombers | runner-up | 3-3 | 18GF 20GA
Xavier Lapointe – Rochester Institute of Technology (2022-23)
Cal Schell – SUNY Oswego (2022-23)
Gabriel Schipper – Bowdoin College (2022-23)
Jérémi Tremblay – Sacred Heart University (2022-23)
Brett Wieschorster – University of Vermont (2022-23)
CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS
Oct. 4 – not ranked
Oct. 11 – not ranked
Oct. 18 – 20th
Oct. 25 – not ranked
Nov. 1 – Honourable Mention
Nov. 8 – not ranked
Nov. 15 – not ranked
Nov. 22 – not ranked
Nov. 29 – not ranked
Dec. 6 – not ranked
Dec. 13 – not ranked
Dec. 20 – not ranked
Feb. 7 – not ranked
Feb. 14 – 18th
Feb. 21 – Honourable Mention
Feb. 28 – not ranked
March 7 – not ranked
March 14 – not ranked
March 21 – not ranked