Flin Flon's Friday night game in La Ronge was one to forget - but the Bombers now know who they'll face in the first round.
The Ice Wolves picked up the lead very early and never relented, winning 5-1 and setting the Bombers up with a rematch of the Estevan Bruins in this first round of the playoffs.
The Bombers added two more players to their laundry list of unable-to-suit-up players - both defender Cory King and forward Alexi Sylvestre didn't hit the ice, owing to illness. The two players' absence grows the list of Bombers unable to play to nine, joining forwards Cole Duperreault, Zach Cain, Matt Egan, Jaeden Mercier, Jeremi Tremblay, Jacob Vockler and defender Cheechoo Lathlin, who has missed almost the whole season with a long-term injury. Two forwards who were nursing injuries, Cain and Egan, were listed on the SJHL's official roster for the game, but neither actually saw ice time.
Affiliate player Jack Bechard hit the ice for Flin Flon, but the team still suited up with seven defenders, nine healthy forwards and backup goalie Kenny Marquart in the pipes.
La Ronge, icing a full-strength lineup while playing for first-round home-ice advantage, opened the scoring 11 seconds into the game. Reece Richmond, attempting a game-opening breakout, was almost immediately pokechecked by Thomas Wright, who came in all alone on Marquart and scored. Six minutes later, Cobe Delaney followed suit for La Ronge, scoring his first SJHL goal on a quick pass in front on a partial break. The Ice Wolves would lead 2-0 after the first.
Alex Von Sprecken got the Bombers on the board with a powerplay slapshot, but La Ronge would continue on with the lead into the third.
In the final frame, Trenton Curtis would fire a slapshot past Marquart to restore La Ronge's third-period lead, then Jacob Visentini would do the same with a high-slot wrister to make it 4-1.
With five seconds to go in the third and Von Sprecken in the box for a hooking penalty, Wright would get his second of the game, sending the teams home. Final score: 5-1 La Ronge.
Marquart was credited with 28 saves, while La Ronge goalie Dawson Smith was given 50 saves in the win.
The result almost confirms both teams' final spots in the standings and playoff matchups. Fourth and fifth are the only places in the standings not set in stone as of Friday night, but all four first-round series are now confirmed.
The Bombers' loss, along with a 7-4 win by Humboldt over Yorkton, puts the Broncos second with 79 points, out of reach for the Bombers. With one game left, Flin Flon sits third with 76 points.
With third place confirmed, the Bombers will face off against Estevan in a best-of-seven first-round series, a rematch of last year's SJHL final, a seven-game slobberknocker that ended with Estevan hoisting the trophy at home.
In the two teams' four games this season, the Bombers won three, winning 5-1 Jan. 27 and 3-1 Jan. 28 at the Whitney Forum and 7-6 in overtime at Affinity Place Feb. 11. Estevan's sole win against Flin Flon came in a 8-6 result at Affinity Place Oct. 12.
Flin Flon has 10 players on the team who played in last year's Game 7 title decider, including Von Sprecken, who was part of the winning Bruins squad. The Bruins have six - defender Aleksa Babic, forwards Cody Davis, Mitch Kohner, Keagon Little and Kade Runke and goalie Cam Hrdlicka, now the Bruins' starter, was the team's backup for the decisive game.
Meanwhile, the Ice Wolves are now fifth in the league standings and are two points behind Melfort for fourth in the league standings. Melfort has finished the regular season with 71 points, while La Ronge has one game left and 69 points. If La Ronge beats Flin Flon Saturday night, they will finish tied with the Mustangs but pull ahead on tiebreaker, taking fourth place and home ice from the 'Stangs.
Throughout the SJHL, the Battlefords North Stars will face the Weyburn Red Wings in their first round series, while Humboldt will play Nipawin. La Ronge and Melfort will square off, though who will have home ice advantage will be decided Saturday.