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Bomber Game Report: Flin Flon powers through Stars in 5-4 OT revenge thriller

Nice win streak you got there, Battlefords. Be a shame if someone ended it. Flin Flon did just that in a clash of the titans Friday night, beating the Stars in a 5-4 game-of-the-year contender.
Bomber Game Report

Nice win streak you got there, Battlefords. Be a shame if someone ended it. Flin Flon did just that in a clash of the titans Friday night, beating the Stars in a 5-4 game-of-the-year contender.

It was the first time the Bombers and Stars had played all season and the first time they played since the Stars raised the Canterra Seeds Cup at the Whitney Forum last spring. The narratives going into the game were thick - the SJHL's top two teams, the teams that faced each other in the finals in 2019 and 2023, the league's top two offences, the top two scorers in the Stars' Kian Bell and Bomber captain Justin Lies. Both teams came in on hot streaks - the Stars came in on both a 15-game point streak and a 10-game win streak, while the Bombers entered the night first in the SJHL standings over the Stars, despite playing fewer games.

The game is played on the ice, not in story form - and once the first whistle blew, fans at the Access Communications Centre were treated to a modern classic.

It was Battlefords who opened the scoring, with Hunter Burgeson getting a redirection past Harmon Laser-Hume to make it 1-0 Stars. 

Flin Flon would tie the game right back up five minutes later, with Josh Medernach getting a double-minor for slewfooting Kylynn Olafson and giving the Bombers a 5-on-3. There, they capitalized - Justin Lies snapping home a pinpoint wrister that went past Battlefords' Matt MacArthur, tying the game up and giving him his league-leading 31st of the year.

The Stars would get the lead back late in the frame, as Ben Portner snuck behind the Bomber defence and caught a pass from captain Tanner Gold while wide open, being stopped once by Laser-Hume before burying the rebound. The Bombers would generate a few chances later in the frame and almost tied it up with a chance from Riley Niven, but couldn't get it in. The Bombers got 19 shots in the first to the Stars' 12, but Battlefords led in the only count that matters, entering the second up 2-1.

That lead lasted until about five minutes into the second, when the Bombers' resident thorn in the Stars' side, Alexi Sylvestre, rushed into the zone, got a shot through traffic and hacked the rebound past MacArthur. Game tied, 2-2, on Sylvestre's 20th of the season and fifth goal in his last three games against the Stars, dating back to last year's league final.

The Bombers went to the penalty kill not long after on a Liam Bridger boarding call and the Stars generated a couple of dangerous chances, but the maroon and white killed the chances off. A second penalty to Noah Houle was killed off, ending with a showstopper save by Laser-Hume on Bell and an immediate breakaway by Houle, who lost the handle right before reaching MacArthur.

Back-and-forth hockey ensued late, with Sylvestre and Piccininno each getting chances knocked away then a pair of shots by Bell, one of which was blocked by Lies, who kept the puck from reaching his net but paid the price for it, hobbling away after the puck caught his ankle.

Bell would get his revenge later in the frame though, when he snuck in behind the D and came in on a breakaway on Laser-Hume, putting in a go-ahead goal, making it 3-2.

The period wouldn't end that way though - Anthony Bax snuck a wrister through traffic and past MacArthur, tying the game for the Bombers and giving some of the Stars faithful an "Are you not entertained?" on the side glass. The goal was Bax's fourth goal and sixth point in just four games since being traded to Flin Flon.

The third period would begin in a 3-3 stalemate. Flin Flon took the upper hand five minutes in, with Piccininno playing the puck forward, jumping on the rebound of a MacArthur save and putting it over the goalie's shoulder. For the first time on the night, the Bombers had a lead - and not long after, the Bombers went on the powerplay after Piccininno drew a penalty on Medernach. Flin Flon didn't cash in on the chance, but did put the Stars on their heels for two minutes.

Battlefords battled back, but Laser-Hume made one of the biggest saves of his season at point-blank range, stopping a chance by Bradley Blake with an outstretched glove.

The lead didn't last though, as the Bombers' defence cost them dear once again - a turnover by defender Luke Lepper behind Flin Flon's net ended up right on the stick of Portner, who buried it on Laser-Hume, tying the game up halfway through the third.

Playoff atmosphere was heavy in the air late in the third, with both teams battling from end to end. Lies, who had barely taken a shift since that shot block in the second, came back on the ice, but the Stars applied serious pressure late, forcing Laser-Hume to make big saves again and again to keep Flin Flon in it.

Jackson Allan had a prime chance, capitalizing on another Bomber turnover to get a good chance, but the shot was knocked away by Tanchuk and froze by Laser-Hume.

Another late chance for the Stars, which saw Bell and Blake go in on a two-on-one and have a pass blocked by a jumping Lies, who pulled the puck underneath him next to the crease and froze it himself, not playing the puck with his hand in the crease. Some of the Stars faithful seemed to think the puck was in the Bomber net, but it was never close to the goal line, stopped by Lies out of harm's way.

In the final minute, the Bombers gained the zone and tried one last-ditch attempt to get a win in regulation, but could not muster up a good shot. Final chances would not come to fruition - overtime would be needed.

Lies, Jacob Vockler and Houle started for the Bombers - the Stars iced Portner, Gold and Bell. Lies had a great chance off a feed early by Piccininno, but Bell got in the middle to break it up. The Stars' Alex Izyk gave it to Blake to get a shot but was saved, then the puck went the other way and Sylvestre and Adam McNutt got shots off, both of which were saved.

Ping-pong hockey continued, with Laser-Hume making a save, then MacArthur stopping the puck. Each team pulled back and retreated, playing tactical overtime mainly in the neutral zone.

Finally, with less than 90 seconds left on the clock, a breakthrough - the Bombers pulled the puck away from their own net, letting McNutt go in on a two-on-one with Carter Anderson. Anderson found McNutt sneak behind the Stars defence, come into the slot, hit him with a pinpoint pass and McNutt beat MacArthur clean as a whistle. Game, set, match for the maroon and white - 5-4 win.

Laser-Hume got the win and earned it, making 31 saves. MacArthur was shelled, stopping 46 of 51 shots and getting stuck with the loss.

With the win, the Bombers have filled up their infinity gauntlet, beating all 11 other SJHL squads this season. The Stars' point streak is still intact, going up to 16 with the one point received in the loss, but the win streak was snapped. Meanwhile, the Bombers' winning streak went up to four with their victory. The Bombers made a little space over the Stars in the standings too, moving six points clear of them for first place in the standings. Flin Flon has 68 points in 37 games, while the Stars have 62, despite playing three more games than the Bombers.

Kian Bell also moved further ahead of Lies in the SJHL points race, putting up a goal and two assists compared to Lies' goal and assist pair. Bell has 64 points in just 26 games for the Stars, ahead of Lies' 59 points in 36 games - but Lies has more goals, with 31 to Bell's 27.

Both teams face off again for round two Saturday night across the river at the Battleford Arena.

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