Flin Flon may have bent Thursday night, but they didn't break, beating rivals Melfort 5-4 in a passionate tilt.
Two teams that have a habit of bringing the best - and, at times, worst - out of each other put everything they had into a heavyweight bout. The Bombers eventually got the lead late and avenged a loss in the team's home opener last month.
Melfort came out fast to start the game, hemming the Bombers in their own zone, but goalie Harmon Laser-Hume bailed them out with a handful of big saves. After killing off a penalty, momentum swung back the Bombers' way thanks to a play by their captain - Justin Lies tracked down a loose puck in the Melfort zone, looped around and beat goalie James Venne himself to open the scoring.
Lies almost scored a second goal shorthanded moments later, but it would be Kylynn Olafson who would extend the Bomber lead later in the frame, taking a quick dish from Ashton Paul and beating Venne to get a two-goal lead.
That lead would not last, as Melfort brought themselves within one late in the period. Laser-Hume made a big stop, but could not control the puck with his glove, leaving it to squirt loose at the side of the net where Rhett Hamilton knocked it in. Flin Flon entered the second with a 2-1 lead.
The Bombers had rotten luck with penalties and calls on the night, taking their fourth consecutive penalty midway through the second, but they struck gold shortly after it expired. Adam McNutt fired a looping shot at Venne that the veteran goalie did not get all of, bouncing into the net and restoring the two-goal Flin Flon lead.
Barely a minute later, Melfort struck again when a point shot at Laser-Hume handcuffed the netminder and it bounced into the crease behind him. That led to a crush of players descending on the net from both teams and David Rioux from Melfort pushing it into the net mid-pile. Bomber players tried to argue there was goalie interference on the play, but those pleas fell on deaf ears. It was a one-goal game again.
The Bombers almost extended that lead again on their first powerplay of the game, first when Alexi Sylvestre almost poked it in at the side of the net but was stopped by Venne, then again when Liam Bridger shovelled the puck toward the net and almost made it in. The goal judge signalled a goal on the play and both players and fans near the net celebrated as if the puck crossed the line, but the officials waved off the goal, keeping it a 3-2 game.
The penalty pendulum swung back the Mustangs' way as the Bombers had three straight powerplays in the second, making good on the third - Sylvestre beat Venne from long range with a dangerous wrist shot, extending the lead back to two. Once again though, Melfort would claw back, this time getting a powerplay of their own - Ryan Duguay, who drew the penalty that the powerplay came from, would fire in a bad-angle shot that got past Laser-Hume.
Flin Flon got late chances to extend the lead again but could not convert, seeing Jacob Vockler take a big hit on the sideboards and going down awkwardly. Nonetheless, the SJHL's leading scorer stayed in the game, the Bombers kept up the pressure and they would end the second up 4-3.
The third period had a playoff atmosphere to it, starting with big hits and the officials appearing to have left their whistles in the room at break. The biggest of those hits was one laid by Bridger on Melfort's Austin Shepherd that left the Mustangs' forward reeling and seeking a pound of flesh from the wrong guy, going after Olafson and ending with Olafson hitting Shepherd into an open door on his bench. Olafson got pulled to the boards by Mustangs players, with Brayden Westerlund landing some punches from inside the bench, but no calls were made and Olafson was able to skate away.
A scrum in front of the net led to the first penalties of the third, two-out-of-the-pile coincidental minors, and the Mustangs capitalized. Duguay streaked in on Laser-Hume and beat him with a backhander from the slot, tying the game back up midway through the period. Melfort may have been missing two top forwards in Zac Somers and Aidyn Hutchinson, but Duguay, the Mustangs' top scorer this year, did his best to pick up the slack.
Flin Flon was dazed, but not down - on another powerplay later in the frame, Vockler and Sylvestre entered the zone and put the pressure on. Justin Lies picked up the puck on a rebound and took a shot which was blocked, but the bounce came out to Carter Anderson who beat Venne clean, restoring the Flin Flon lead.
Melfort would continue battling, while the Bombers almost extended their lead, getting a potential goal waved off for the second time of the night - the puck went in past Venne, but the whistle went off just before it did to signal a Flin Flon penalty, late for the penalty but just in time to shave off the goal. Melfort hemmed the Bombers in late, pulling Venne with 1:30 to go, but the Bombers cleared the zone and kept the pressure away from their net to clinch the victory.
Laser-Hume finished the night with a win, 22 saves and an assist, received on Sylvestre's powerplay goal in the second. Venne was shelled, making 39 saves in a losing effort.
The Bombers stay atop the SJHL standings with 29 points in 16 games, sporting a 14-1-1-0 record. In second place sits Humboldt, who have 23 points in 13 games - the Broncos have not yet lost a game in regulation, but have three overtime losses. Melfort sits third in the standings with 21 points, while the surging Battlefords North Stars are now fourth with 19 points.
The Bombers will be away from game action for a week and a half until the SJHL Showcase in Warman, playing two games in back-to-back days, facing Weyburn Nov. 13 at 4:30 p.m. local time and Estevan Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m.