Saturday night's Bomber home game proved a point - this is Cole Duperreault's world and everyone else is just living in it. A hat-trick from the forward helped push Flin Flon to a 5-2 win.
Penalties were an issue for the home side at times, but powerplay skill overshadowed that in the victory over Notre Dame.
Flin Flon opened the scoring midway through the first, with Zach Cain scoring his first Whitney Forum goal as a Bomber by whacking the puck through the slot and beating Notre Dame's Johann Tremblay-Kau. The first period was mostly full of momentum for the Bombers, with several good battles including one between the Hounds' Connor O'Keefe and Bomber Jacob Vockler that ended with helmets and punches flying - both got 10-minute misconducts for their trouble. Flin Flon led 1-0 on Cain's goal after one.
The Bombers buzzed Tremblay-Kau's net to start the second, but it would be Notre Dame getting on the board first, with Marko Djordjevic forcing a turnover and setting up Matteo Speranza with a wide-open chance on Harmon Laser-Hume, on which he made no mistake. The stalemate would go stale shortly after though, as Duperreault would show up and take the game over.
First, the Martensville native took a quick pass from the sideboards from Vockler, gave it a quick touch and then flipped it over Tremblay-Kau, giving the Bombers a 2-1 lead. The Hounds would run into penalty trouble, putting Flin Flon up a man, where they would succeed. Tremblay-Kau would make a save, but the puck would bounce over to the side of the net, where Duperreault would whack the puck out of the air below the crossbar and back into the slot, where Jeremi Tremblay would fire the puck past his namesake. Tremblay's goal would prove to be the game-winner.
Flin Flon would then take their own parade to the box, with a too many men call and a 10-minute misconduct for Houle, who got a two and 10 for a hit to the head on Notre Dame's Jacob Ligi. That was followed by Rylan Pearce getting the gate late after Hound Sam Kroon tried to deke him and the two players caught each other - Pearce got a double-minor for kneeing, sending the Bombers into the third period up 3-1 but down a man for three and a half minutes.
In the third, Notre Dame got back on the board. With the Bombers down a man and with Duperreault's stick broken mid-play, Isaiah Peters beat Laser-Hume with a long shot through traffic. The Bombers took two more penalties immediately after, but Liam Hunks of the Hounds took an interference call shortly after, making it a four-on-three for the Hounds, then four-on-four and a short powerplay for the Bombers. Flin Flon killed off their penalties and got back their momentum.
The penalty pendulum would swing back toward the Hounds in the mid-third period, with Duperreault getting his second goal of the night with Hunks in the box. The forward jumped on a loose puck in the slot, getting his second of the night and extending the lead. Three minutes later, Duperreault completed the troika with another powerplay goal, with the Bombers' pinpoint passing around the zone catching the Hounds off guard before Duperreault hammered home a one-timer.
Laser-Hume got another win, making 22 saves to do it, while Tremblay-Kau stopped 45 shots in a losing effort.
Duperreault ended the night with the hat-trick and an assist for four points, while Tremblay had the reverse, scoring once and adding three assists. Jaeden Mercier added three assists of his own on a night where the Bombers scored three of their five goals with a man advantage against the SJHL's worst penalty kill.
The Bombers, who were idle this week aside from the Saturday night game, have fallen in the standings from second in the league to fourth, also dropping from first in the Sherwood division to second. Both Humboldt and La Ronge, who played more games this week, have overtaken the Bombers - Humboldt doing so by dealing the juggernaut Battlefords North Stars not one but two straight regulation losses in back-to-back nights, putting Canada's top team on a three-game losing skid.
Flin Flon currently has 51 points in 37 games, behind Humboldt's 53 points in 38 games and La Ronge's 52 points in 41 games. Going by points percentage - which evens out differences in games played - puts the Bombers third in the league, well behind the Stars, just behind the Broncos and ahead of the Ice Wolves, Melfort Mustangs and fifth-in-the-standings Estevan.
The Bombers will play three games this week, each against teams in playoff positions. First comes an away date against the Melfort Mustangs Jan. 24, followed by two dates at the Whitney Forum against Estevan Jan. 27-28.