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Bomber Game Report: Double overtime, controversial winner puts Bombers 3-0 down in final

Flin Flon fought hard in Game 3, tying the game three times and forcing double overtime but lost 4-3, with a split-second decision helping to put the Bombers one game away from elimination.

Flin Flon fought hard in Game 3, tying the game three times and forcing double overtime but lost 4-3, with a split-second decision helping to put the Bombers one game away from elimination.

The Bombers could not close out the game and an overtime winner by Melfort's Aidyn Hutchinson, despite video showing the play being offside, would stand as the difference.

The Mustangs started hot two minutes in, scoring on their first shot of the game - Logan Belton, cutting through the middle of the offensive zone, got a shot by Harmon Laser-Hume. Melfort had not scored the first goal in either Game 1 or Game 2, but got the lead early and hung onto it.

A few quality chances came later in the period for Flin Flon, including Anthony Piccininno and Justin Lies coming in shorthanded late in the period and almost tying the game, but the shot from that rush came in just wide. Melfort led 1-0 after the first.

Little offence took place in the second, with maybe the Bombers' best chance coming from Kylynn Olafson, who got a prime chance in front off a pinball passing play and almost tied it up - but Melfort goalie James Venne kicked a pad out to knock it out of harm's way. Melfort kept the lead going into the third.

In the third, the Bombers managed to come back. With a man in the box for the Mustangs, Carter Anderson, still in the lineup despite breaking his nose in Game 2, blasted a shot from the point and it went in. With 15 minutes to go, the Bombers finally got the game tied.

It wouldn't last. Three minutes later, Leith Olafson took a shot from the point that made its way through a crowd and past Laser-Hume, giving Melfort back the lead.

The Mustangs suffered a blow early in the third, when Nolan Roberts, one of the team's best physical players, got caught in a sidewall battle with Matt Egan. Egan pushed Roberts to the ice and the Mustangs defender appeared to hit his head on the ice, knocking him out for several moments. Roberts was taken to the dressing room and did not return to the game, taking Melfort down to five defenders.

In the second half of the period, the Bombers pushed toward the net, applying as much pressure as possible. With six minutes to go, it paid off. Keefe Gruener took a clear shot from the high slot at Venne, which squeezed through the netminder's five-hole and into the Melfort goal. It was 2-2, tied once more, in the waning moments of regulation.

For the second time, it wouldn't last - and it would be the same player dashing Flin Flon's hopes. Mustangs captain Olafson got another long shot through traffic off just moments after Gruener's goal, restoring the home team's lead late.

Once again, the Bombers would need to come back to tie it - and they would, thanks to Adam McNutt. The Bomber defender, maybe taking a cue from Olafson, took a long shot of his own and it too snuck through traffic and got past Venne, hitting the post and going in with barely three minutes left.

Both teams went hard to finish regulation, but could not score again before the 60-minute horn. Overtime would be needed.

The Bombers had not played an overtime period this playoffs going in - the Mustangs, on the other hand, had played several, going into extra time four times against Humboldt in the semifinals. Flin Flon outshot the Mustangs through regulation, but that wouldn't matter come OT - the next goal wins.

Melfort hemmed the Bombers into their own zone to start, keeping Flin Flon away from the offensive zone for minutes at a time. Flin Flon would eventually get going, with Pierce Yakimchuk getting the puck to Matt Egan for a quick shot on Venne, which the goalie saved in close. On the other side, Melfort's Olafson, looking for his third of the night, put another long shot on Laser-Hume, but the Bomber netminder made the stop.

Lies and Anthony Bax broke in on a two-on-one and Lies kept, but his shot went wide, courtesy of a Melfort defender's stick. Niven got another chance in close but also couldn't make it work.

The momentum pendulum swung back and forth throughout the frame. Each team had chances. Each goalie was up to the task.

Ryan Duguay came close to ending it for the Mustangs, both getting a shot off in close and nearly getting a stick on the rebound, but Flin Flon cleared it away. Later on, Jerome Gilbert was sprung on a breakaway and couldn't corral the puck, leading to a chance back the other way for Melfort that would be saved - and another breakaway for Flin Flon which would also be knocked away. Action was frenetic. Everything was at stake. The refs put the whistles firmly in their pockets. The Northern Lights Palace was a temple of nerves, no matter which jersey each fan wore.

Anderson had a pair of huge chances, including a breakaway opportunity with a minute left on the clock, but he couldn't convert either. With a faceoff in the Mustangs' zone with less than a minute before the end of the first overtime, the Bombers had a last bash at the net, but couldn't keep it in the zone and couldn't cash in a late breakaway. A second overtime would be required.

The fifth period of the night started with a huge stop by the Bombers, with Laser-Hume flashing the leather on Chase Friedt-Mohr in close to keep the game alive.

In the end, it would not swing the Bombers' way. The Mustangs would build up a head of steam and while they lost control of the zone, a minute later, Melfort cashed in. Hutchinson would lead the rush into the Bomber zone, knock it over to Clay Sleeva, who shot it at Laser-Hume - he made the initial save, but the puck caromed out into the slot, where Hutchinson jumped on it and shot it past the goalie, ending the game with a 4-3 Melfort win.

The Bombers disputed the play, saying that Sleeva was offside when he entered the zone, half a stride ahead of Hutchinson as he came in with the puck. Video of the play on FloHockey and on the league's official broadcast on SaskTel Max showed that Sleeva actually did enter the zone ahead of the puck, meaning the play should have been called offside, but no on-ice official caught it - no replay or review was available, the goal would stand and the Bombers would leave the rink in a deep, deep hole.

Laser-Hume stopped 43 shots in the Bombers' longest game of the season, while Venne also stopped 43 shots in a winning effort.

To add insult to injury, a scrap broke out after the final whistle between Anderson and Melfort's Tye Evans - Anderson fired the puck into the boards in anger while Mustangs players mobbed Hutchinson after the goal, coming close to Venne, who came speeding by just after Anderson shot the puck.

Missed call or not, the Bombers will have to fight for their playoff lives in Melfort Thursday night, needing to win four straight games to win their first title in three decades. Doing that would mean forcing a Game 7, which if needed, would be played at the Whitney Forum. In the SJHL's history, the final series has gone to seven games nine times, but a team that has gone down 3-0 in the series has only one come back to win the finals - the Battlefords North Stars, doing so in 2000, coming back to reverse sweep Weyburn and win the title.

The Bombers will need to make history to claim the crown.

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