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Bombers start playoffs with unfinished business against Bruins

The Bombers’ regular season is over. The toughest work begins now. The team’s playoff campaign officially kicks off with home games this Friday and Saturday night against the Estevan Bruins.

The Bombers’ regular season is over. The toughest work begins now.

The team’s playoff campaign officially kicks off with home games this Friday and Saturday night against the Estevan Bruins.

When each season starts, Bomber head coach and general manager Mike Reagan has one goal in mind - winning the league championship that’s been so elusive to Flin Flon for so long. One part of getting there is strong regular season performance, leading Reagan to set a side goal; to have his team end the regular season with 40 wins. It’s a goal he hasn’t yet hit - the closest the Bombers have gotten is 39 in 2016-17. This year’s team fell just short of that mark, ending the year with 37, but Reagan is far from disappointed.

“Going into the second half of the year, we felt that it was realistic to get to 40. We came up a little bit short, but in saying that, with everything that's gone on with the injuries, I'm pretty happy with our regular season,” he said.

“I think by points percentage, it’s been the second-best season we’ve had since I’ve been here. With the injuries and everything, I think we have to be pretty happy with how it played out.”

Those injuries Reagan mentioned were not just one or two players out of the lineup. For the final nine games of the season, the Bombers were out Cole Duperreault, Jeremi Tremblay, Jaeden Mercier, Jacob Vockler, Matt Egan and, eventually, Zach Cain - the team’s five top scoring forwards were out. The Bombers scored 200 goals this season - the injured group, by themselves, scored more than half of those goals.

Nonetheless, despite a short lineup and new faces being pressed into top-line service, the Bombers’ depth came through. Players like Brent Gulenchyn, Joey Lies, Ethan Mercer, Brock Mueller and others produced offence, while others like Kylynn Olafson and Alexi Sylvestre stepped up their defensive play. Players like Aiden Chow and Rylan Pearce, both defencemen under normal circumstances, lined up as forwards at times. Cory King, Reece Richmond and Alex Von Sprecken stepped into new roles on the D line, nearing point-per-game pace during the short bench stretch.

The Bombers ground out a 6-2-0-1 record in their last nine games. Reagan is proud of his players' effort and hopes that continues into the playoffs.

“I thought they were unbelievable - like if I was to rate how we responded to that, I would have to say it was a nine out of 10. The only way it could have been better as if we didn't drop those two games there,” said the coach. 

“I'm extremely pleased and impressed with the guys that picked up or elevated their games.”

The injury bug is expected to subside going into the series - Reagan said the team is expecting at least a couple of players back on the ice for the start of the series with others coming in later on, though he’s cagey about exactly who will appear and when.

“They’re on track to start the series but you know, we've got three or four days here and hopefully there are no setbacks that way,” said the coach.

Morale is high in the room following that tough late stretch, Reagan said.

“I think the guys are proud of the way they played. I think they've gained a lot of confidence and some guys that were depth players for us are feeling good about themselves right now. I think that's a real positive for when guys get back in the lineup. it makes us deeper,” he said.



It’s been said that men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t - this series brings with it its own sets of important numbers.

When the puck drops between the Bombers and the Bruins at the Forum Friday night, it’ll be exactly 321 days since Game 7 of last year’s SJHL final, played between the two teams at Estevan’s Affinity Place. The Bombers were able to take a stranglehold on play when that series was in Flin Flon, but in enemy territory, the team ate a 2-0 loss when it mattered most. For the third time in six seasons, the Bombers had to watch another team lift the trophy after beating them, but lessons were learned that can now be used this year.

“We played them so much last year that we have a good idea of what they like to do and how they like to play. The personnel is quite a bit different from last year, but system-wise, they’re similar. I think teams try to throw curveballs at each other at different points and we're just going to have to be ready for that,” Reagan said.

“I think for us, the fact we were able to get a win in Estevan this year was important for us. From a confidence standpoint, I think that’s positive. I think that Tarts [Estevan head coach Jason Tatarnic] is a veteran coach and he'll put together a game plan for us, and we'll do the same for them.”

The Bombers have ten players who were on the ice for Game 7 - forwards Duperreault, Mercier, Olafson, Tremblay and Vockler and defenders Lucas Fry, King, Richmond and Cole Tanchuk each played for the Bombers, while trade acquisition Alex Von Sprecken suited up with the Bruins. Estevan has just four players remaining who played in the game - defender Aleksa Babic and forwards Cody Davis, Mitch Kohner and Kade Runke. Goalie Cam Hrdlicka was the backup that night - current Bruins backup goalie Jackson Miller was an affiliated player and joined the Bruins on the ice for the post-game celebration.

The Bruins and Bombers played each other four times this year, with the Bombers winning three of those games. The two games in Flin Flon ended with the Bombers only giving up one goal each night, but both games in Estevan were high-scoring barnburners.

The stats can tell different tales - Reagan thinks they show a well-rounded, playoff-ready squad.

“We finished second in the league in goals against, which I'm proud of -  I think for us, that's a big accomplishment. Our power play was first in the league, our penalty kill was top four, we averaged the most shots on net while giving up the fewest, which is another positive. I think we're top five in goals - there's a lot of statistics that indicate that we're a good team and that we'll be a tough team to beat in playoffs,” he said.

“If you're a big analytics guy, I think that a lot of them favour us in many different categories.”

On April 20, the Bombers will mark 30 years since the team last won a championship - that team, back in 1993, won the title after a seven-game war with Melville. It’s a streak the team - and the community at large - hopes is snapped come next month.


Flin Flon vs. Estevan first round series




Start time

Game 1

Mar 17

Whitney Forum, Flin Flon

7:30 local/6:30 Sask. Time

Game 2

Mar 18

Whitney Forum, Flin Flon

7:30 local/6:30 Sask. Time

Game 3

Mar 21

Affinity Place, Estevan

8:30 local/7:30 Sask. Time

Game 4

Mar 22

Affinity Place, Estevan

8:30 local/7:30 Sask. Time

Game 5 (if needed)

Mar 24

Whitney Forum, Flin Flon

7:30 local/6:30 Sask. Time

Game 6 (if needed)

Mar 26

Affinity Place, Estevan

8:30 local/7:30 Sask. Time

Game 7 (if needed)

Mar 28

Whitney Forum, Flin Flon

7:30 local/6:30 Sask. Time


First round series


Battlefords (1) plays Weyburn (8)


Humboldt (2) plays Nipawin (7)


Flin Flon (3) plays Estevan (6)


Melfort (4) plays La Ronge (5)

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