It might have not been a storybook start, but hard work and constant pressure kept the Bombers' win streak alive Friday, beating Yorkton 4-3.
Flin Flon battled back to go from 3-0 down in the first to the winning result, stretching their win streak to six games and, according to the team, getting head coach Mike Reagan his 500th regular season win as Bomber coach.
The Terriers took a lead early on, with Clay Sleeva getting some room with the puck behind the net and feeding Dylan Ruptash in the slot, who fired a shot point-blank past Kenny Marquart and in. Barely one minute in, the Bombers were behind.
Lightning struck twice for the Terriers barely a minute later, when the Bombers, unable to clear the puck from the defensive zone, turned it over to Yorkton's Anthony Domina, leading to a feed to Jeff Hammond and a one-timer blast right into the net. A few minutes later, the Terriers entered the zone on an odd-man rush, leading to Domina jumping on a rebound and getting it past Marquart. Marquart, having given up three goals on nine shots in an uncharacteristically shaky start, was pulled for Harmon Laser-Hume for the rest of the night.
In Yorkton's net was a familiar foe for the Bombers - Ethan Farrow, who entered last season as one of the Bombers' three goalies, along with Laser-Hume and Marquart, before being traded away. Farrow ended up in Yorkton earlier this year and has become the team's starting netminder - and played like he had something to prove.
The Bombers stopped the bleeding midway through the first, with Justin Lies, celebrating his 20th birthday, firing home a loose puck from a bad angle to get the Bombers on the board. The goal would be the Bombers' only one in the first 20, entering the second down 3-1.
The second period brought a few different chances for the Bombers, with Yorkton going to the box three times in a row. That included one 10-minute misconduct for Domina for not having his mouthguard in and a double-minor on a high stick that left Riley Niven, in the lineup for his first game as a Bomber, bloodied. On that powerplay, Adam McNutt blew a shot clean by Farrow to bring the Bombers within one, where they would stay entering the third.
Flin Flon clawed their way back even early in the third, with rookie Koen Senft getting in the perfect spot for a feed by Lies. Later in the period, Lies would get the Bombers in front for good, going on a rare shorthanded two-on-none with Carter Anderson and making no mistake, giving the Bombers a lead they wouldn't give up. To add insult to injury, Hammond, who did a jumping dive at full speed to try and break the play up, crashed into Farrow and the goalie went down - though he would stay in the net for a while until Yorkton pulled him for a man advantage.
Lies almost got the chance to celebrate his birthday with a hat-trick at the last moment, firing a puck at the open Terriers net, but ran out of time before the final horn - that goal would have not only brought Lies a hat-trick, but would have drawn him even with Melfort's Ryan Duguay for the SJHL goal and point scoring lead.
Instead, Lies received an unwelcome gift at the last moment - a stick in the mouth from Yorkton's Cade Kennedy, who took umbrage at the last empty net try. The Bombers celebrated their victory and Lies, despite getting a stick in the teeth, was given a game misconduct after the game was over according to the game sheet shared to the SJHL's website.
Laser-Hume was perfect in relief for the Bombers, stopping all 21 shots he faced in just over two-and-a-half periods of work.
Flin Flon moves now to 39 points on the year and a 19-1-1-0 record, good enough for a four-point cushion over resurgent Battlefords, who now sit in second place - albeit having played four more games than the Bombers have so far.
According to the Bombers' official social media channels, the win was Mike Reagan's 500th regular season victory since first stepping behind the bench in 2007. The claim isn't 100 per cent correct - while the Bombers have won 500 times since he began his time coaching the team, Reagan has not coached every one of those games, having missed time occasionally for scout trips and tournaments, including one weekend earlier this season when assistant Cole McCaig took over the reins. Reagan has also missed games during three World Junior A Challenges where he coached for Team Canada West, with assistants again taking over as short-term bench boss.
Including playoff games, Reagan has long since cleared the 500-win mark with the Bombers - he has 74 playoff wins and counting under his belt as coach.
The Bombers will continue on their road trip, playing an unusual three games in three nights. Flin Flon will face Melville, the only team to beat the Bombers in regulation this season, Saturday night before they face the Terriers again Sunday.