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Bomber Game Report: The dream ends in Estevan with 2-0 Game 7 loss

The dream is over. The Bombers dropped Game 7 on the road Friday night, losing the league title to Estevan in the process.
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Bomber Game Report

The dream is over. The Bombers dropped Game 7 on the road Friday night, losing the league title to Estevan in the process.

The Bruins came out on top, getting a 2-0 win and picking up their first title since 1999.

Flin Flon was on the back foot early, with Cal Schell relied upon for save after save as the Bruins applied pressure, stoning Eric Pearce on a wrist shot, then stopping Nolan Jones on a snapper from the high slot. The Bombers would have highlights of their own, including Lucas Fry knocking two Bruins off their feet within seconds of each other in the corner, but would have a dearth of quality chances. Perhaps the best one came late in the first, when Jaeden Mercier corralled a rebound off a point shot and sent it back at the net, but despite Mercier and Drew Kuzma making attempts, the puck wouldn't get past Estevan's Boston Bilous. The score was nil-nil after 20.

In the second, the Bombers came out the gate hot, but it was Estevan that would score first. A Kian Calder point shot found its way through Schell, sending Affinity Place in Estevan into a frenzy. No one knew it at the time, but Calder's goal would stand up as the series and championship winner.

Zak Smith nearly tied it up with a knuckleball that almost fooled Bilous, with Kuzma pressing on the rebound, but no success would befall the Bomber attack. The Bombers would get a series of shots, outshooting the Bruins during the period, but most came from the outside, where Bilous could easily sweep them away. Special teams wouldn't play much of a factor either, as officials Sean Dufour and Tarrington Wyonzek did not call a single penalty until midway through the third period - with the whistles not a factor, liberties were taken liberally by both teams.

Entering the third, the Bombers would try what they could to beat the Bruin attack, but it wouldn't work. Estevan hemmed the Bombers in the zone early, getting occasional chances but nothing sustained.

The first penalties of the game went to Bomber Reece Richmond and Bruin Mitch Kohner, who got tangled up for several moments next to the Bomber net in a bizarre jiu-jitsu style tangle-up. Both got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Those calls opened the floodgates. Within a minute, Bomber D-man Xavier Lapointe would catch Estevan's Olivier Pouliot in the face with his stick, drawing blood. That got the Bombers a four-minute double minor to kill off and, on top of that, Rylan Thiessen would be assessed a 10-minute misconduct after the call, putting the Bombers down 4-on-3.

On that 4-on-3, Pouliot would deal the Bombers ultimate revenge, firing a shot through a screen that beat Schell and put the Bruins up 2-0 with less than nine minutes to go.

The Bombers would throw everything but the kitchen sink at Bilous late, but the ex-WHLer stood tall, stopping all pucks fired at him by the Flin Flon team. As the clock struck zero, the Bruins hit the ice in joy and ecstacy, throwing equipment up in the air in delight having won the team's first title in over two decades. For the Bombers, however, there was just silence.

Both teams were presented with plaques - runners-up plaques for the Bombers, champions plaques for the Bruins - while, for the third time in six seasons, the Bombers would have to watch another team hoist the Canalta Cup. Bruins captain Eric Houk would have the honours, being mobbed by his teammates, as the Bruins' home crowd serenaded the team with "We Are The Champions".

Bilous was named finals MVP, ending the series with a 2.52 goals-against-average and a .92 save percentage. Schell put together a statistically better series for the Bombers, ending with a 1.93 goals-against-average and a .939 save percentage, but the team would still come up short.

Bilous stopped all 29 Bomber shots he faced, while Schell stopped 28 of 30 pucks on the night.

The loss, however, is not the end of the Bombers' season. The team has qualified for the Centennial Cup later this month, where the Bombers will play off against the nine champions of Canada's junior A leagues. In the team's five-team group are the Summerside Western Capitals, who won the Maritime Hockey League crown earlier this month, as well as the winners of the NOJHL, CCHL and MJHL.

The Bombers will start the Centennial Cup tournament - which will be hosted in Estevan - May 19 against the NOJHL champions at 4 p.m. local time, 5 p.m. Manitoba time.