Flin Flon continued its winning ways Wednesday night, beating Melfort 4-2 in a chippy rivalry match-up.
The Bombers didn't play at 100 per cent, but did enough to get two points against an always-dangerous Mustangs lineup. Riley Niven made his Whitney Forum debut as a Bomber. Melfort, who have been hit hard recently by injuries and a bad bout of illness, came into the game missing their two top forwards, Ryan Duguay and Zack Somers, and dressing several under-18 AAA callups.
Both teams got early chances - Ashton Paul almost opened the scoring with a partial break and a close-call rebound, both stopped by Melfort goalie James Venne. Melfort came back the other way on a three-on-one chance that was broken up by a tough shot block by Fabrice Bourgeois, who limped to the bench after but kept the puck away from the net. An Aidyn Hutchinson breakaway was stopped by Laser-Hume.
Flin Flon opened the scoring on a powerplay in the mid-first period, when Carter Anderson let loose a cannon shot one-timer straight past Venne and in. The Bombers would outshoot Melfort by a whopping 26-7 after 20, but entered the second up just 1-0.
Paul, then Justin Lies and Anderson, nearly extended the lead with prime chances, but it would ultimately be rookie Koen Senft getting on the board next, taking a feed from Luke Lepper and beating Venne with a wrister from the slot.
Things started getting nasty with the Bombers up 2-0. Five minutes into the period, Niven went down on a faceoff and play was whistled dead as he struggled to his feet. A replay of the play showed Niven taking a stick to the groin by Melfort's Wyatt Day, but despite video showing the incident being shown on the Whitney Forum's big screen, no penalty was called on Day and the game continued, to a chorus of boos from Bomber fans.
Penalties would be called on the Mustangs intermittently, but Bombers hit the ice hurt four different times in the first two periods and no penalties would be called on those plays. That ended with Alexi Sylvestre taking a high hit in the defensive zone by Melfort's Kaleb Binner, which led Niven, back on the ice after suffering the groin shot, to dump Binner into the boards hard from behind, starting a small brawl. Binner would not be penalized for the hit on Sylvestre, which left the forward spitting out blood on the ice by the Bomber bench, but Niven would be given five and a game for a hit from behind and Austin Shepherd would go to the box for Melfort.
That sequence had a ripple effect on the rest of the period. Melfort would soon after take another penalty and go down 4-on-3, leading to Justin Lies firing home a bullet of a wrist shot to make it 3-0 Bombers. Lies became the first SJHL player to crack 20 goals this season with the score.
Despite that boost, the Mustangs also ended up with a long powerplay after their penalized players left the box - Niven's five-minute major gave Melfort multiple chances with a man up. They took full advantage, with Logan Belton getting a deflection up, over and past Laser-Hume to get Melfort on the board and Chase Friedt-Mohr scoring on a low shot that handcuffed Laser-Hume, bringing Melfort within one. A late chance at the end of the penalty almost made it a tied game, but the puck skittered just wide of the net and the Bombers entered the third up 3-2.
The Bombers came out of the gate cold in the final frame, unable to make passes or set up plays with efficiency. Flin Flon got three straight powerplays in the third but could not convert on any of them, even having to fend off a shorthanded breakaway by the Mustangs. At one point, the Bombers played an entire shift with just four players by accident, only catching the mistake when defender Aiden Chow shouted at the bench for another guy to hop on.
Despite the disarray and with a late push by the Mustangs with Venne pulled, Flin Flon pulled it out in the end. Sylvestre, back despite the big hit he took earlier, muscled a puck through to Lies for an empty-net try - which the captain skated in, fired at the net, and hit the post by accident. A moment later, Lies got a puck again and made doubly sure to seal it, skating within 10 feet of the net and blasting it home to confirm a 4-2 Flin Flon win.
Laser-Hume picked up the win with 28 saves on the night, while Venne stopped 49 shots for the Mustangs.
With the win, the Bombers keep their perch on top of the standings with 44 points and a 21-1-2-0 record, ahead of second-place Battlefords, who have 39 points and have played three more games than Flin Flon.
Lies took over the league scoring and goals lead with a three-point performance - he now leads the league scoring races with 21 goals and 41 points in 23 games. Duguay, who missed Wednesday's game for the Mustangs, has now been bumped down to third place, replaced by the surging Kian Bell for the Stars, who despite having only played 14 games now has 16 goals and 37 points - more points than Duguay in nine fewer games.
The Bombers play twice this weekend - once against Yorkton Dec. 1 on Teddy Bear Toss night, where stuffed toys will be thrown on the ice after the Bombers' first goal and donated to the Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre Christmas gift program. Fans are encouraged to show up with a toy to donate to the cause - members of the Flin Flon Skating Club, staff from Northland Ford and members of the team will help pack up the stuffies after the goal. The second game will be a grudge match with third-place Humboldt at the Whitney Forum Dec. 2.