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Bomber Game Report: Flin Flon can't get going in 4-1 loss, down 2-0 in series

They say a team is not truly in trouble in the playoffs until they lose at home. If that's the case, the Bombers are in deep trouble, losing Game 2 4-1 to Melfort and going down 2-0 in the series.
Bomber Game Report

They say a team is not truly in trouble in the playoffs until they lose at home. If that's the case, the Bombers are in deep trouble, losing Game 2 4-1 to Melfort and going down 2-0 in the series.

On the 31st anniversary of the Bombers' last SJHL championship win, the squad dropped their second home game in as many nights to the Mustangs, giving up four unanswered goals in a crucial game in the championship series.

As always in playoffs, the Whitney Forum crowd started out hot, but neither team followed suit early. Flin Flon got an early powerplay, but couldn't generate much. More penalties could come, at one point giving the Bombers a 4-on-3 advantage, but nothing came from them.

Flin Flon got on the board first though, with Carter Anderson buzzing the boards and feeding Justin Lies, who took a shot in the slot and fired it past James Venne. The captain, in the lineup having dodged a suspension for a late major in Game 1, scored his 11th goal of the playoffs and got the Bombers ahead.

Just like in Game 1 though, the Bombers' lead wouldn't last long. With Flin Flon on the powerplay, a bounce sent the puck back toward Noah Houle at the point when he did not expect it, leading him to stretch out to play the puck and lose his footing and give Melfort a shorthanded breakaway. Chase Friedt-Mohr went in all alone for a hundred feet and made no mistake, beating Harmon Laser-Hume to tie the game.

Anderson would try to swing momentum back Flin Flon's way by laying out Clay Sleeva and generating a scoring chance, but he ripped the puck wide. The Bombers began sliding late in the frame, with multiple players losing their footing and bobbling pucks. The two teams would be tied after 20 minutes.

In the second, the Mustangs would take the lead and extend it. Rhett Hamilton got the go-ahead goal by getting a slow, bouncing shot through a defender and right past Laser-Hume, then Danton Cox pounded on his own rebound to make it 3-1 Melfort midway through the second. On their first 11 shots, the Mustangs had three goals.

Flin Flon had sporadic momentum through the second, but could not get chances in close - the Bombers got 23 shots in the second, but almost none came with 40 feet of the net, leaving Venne to make a series of long saves.

Anderson was sidelined when he tried to lay a hit on Hamilton and missed, crashing into the glass face-first and shattering his nose. The Bomber forward went down and his face spurted out blood, causing the game to be stopped - arena crews were called out to scrape blood from the ice while Anderson went to the dressing room for repairs - he would return to the game late in the period, wearing a fishbowl to protect his face.

The Bombers needed a spark, anything, to get going - and Melfort's Ryan Duguay gave them one. Duguay speared Riley Niven in the groin in front of the Bomber bench, sending Niven to the ice. Duguay was ejected from the game and the Bombers would get five minutes of uninterrupted powerplay time, stretching from the late second to early third period.

Flin Flon got their big opportunity, but sadly for the Bombers, they squandered it. Through the late second and early third, the Bombers generated almost no offence with the man up, being forced to the outside and not getting any dangerous chances before the game evened up. The Bombers made a series of simple mistakes, missing passes, turning the puck over and going offside three separate times in the second half of the major. To make matters worse, Lies went down late in the major with an apparent injury and played only sparingly for the rest of the night.

The Bombers would keep pushing but keep being held back, with Melfort's defence keeping almost all big chances away. On one powerplay midway through the third, the Mustangs had more shots while shorthanded than the Bombers did with a man up, then the Bombers took a penalty of their own they needed to kill off. Kylynn Olafson nearly pulled the Bombers within one with a spectacular shorthanded individual effort, dancing around three Mustangs players to get a shot off, which Venne stopped.

Things got ugly late when Austin Shepherd caught Matt Egan with a knee-on-knee hit that sprawled out the Bomber forward, leaving him to crawl to the bench hurt. Shepherd received a four-minute penalty for the hit, but once again, the Bombers failed to produce anything of consequence in four minutes with man advantage.

Late in the powerplay, Laser-Hume was pulled for the extra skater, but even a 6-on-4 advantage didn't help the Bombers. Finally, with 1:20 left on the lock, a D-to-D pass by Houle to Adam McNutt was picked off by Logan Belton, who chased down the puck and shovelled into the empty net, clinching it for Melfort. The Mustangs left to a volley of cheers from a group of fans who made the drive up, while the Bombers' fans left the rink more or less silenced.

Venne got the win with a 42-save performance. Laser-Hume stopped just 21 shots in the loss.

The series will now shift to Melfort's Northern Lights Palace, where the Bombers will try to get the series back on track. Game 3 will be played on the road Wednesday night, with Game 4 Thursday. The Bombers have to win at least one of those games to avoid losing their fifth finals in seven playoffs. Game 5, if needed, would be played at the Whitney Forum Saturday night.

Through the first two games of the finals, the Bombers have seen a big dropoff in almost all statistical categories. In just two games, the Bombers gave up as many goals as they had through the first two series they played combined - giving up 13 goals on the weekend compared to 13 against both Kindersley and Battlefords. The Bombers had seven individual powerplays, including a five-minute major and a four-minute double minor, and failed to convert on any of them - the Bombers went one for 10 on powerplays through Games 1 and 2.

Dating back to the 2023 finals, the Bombers have now lost their last four SJHL finals games on home ice. The team has also lost seven straight games in the finals, dating back to the team's 2022 loss in Game 7 to Estevan.

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