Four more former Bombers will be playing hockey at university or college next season.
With the season now over and post-secondary hockey recruitment now at a fever pitch, a quartet of players who played with the Bombers last season are on their way to the next level.
Ethan Mercer will be joining the MacEwan University Griffins, based in Edmonton, playing in USports, the top tier of Canadian university hockey. Mercer is originally from Slave Lake, Alta., about a three-hour drive from the MacEwan campus downtown.
Mercer was acquired by the Bombers in November, less than a year after winning a national junior A title with the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits. After winning the Centennial Cup, Mercer was traded to the Olds Grizzlys, where he struggled before being released by the club.
On arrival to Flin Flon, Mercer got his mojo back, putting up 15 points in 28 regular season games as a Bomber before becoming one of the team’s main contributors during the playoffs. While several other key Bombers were knocked out of the lineup with injuries, Mercer stayed healthy and at the top of his game, scoring seven goals and nine points in 16 games, enough for fourth in team point scoring and second in team goal scoring. Only Alexi Sylvestre scored more goals for the Bombers in the playoffs.
Mercer was later named the team’s most dedicated player, having earned an assistant captain’s “A” midway through the year.
A pair of former Bombers will also be heading to Alberta, going to the province’s second city.
Zach Cain will be joining the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Trojans in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) for next season.
Cain was acquired in a deal with the Melville Millionaires at the CJHL trade deadline, coming to the Bombers for his final 21 regular season games. Cain put up 17 points over that time, including nine goals, adding another four assists in 12 playoff games while nursing an injury.
The Bombers have had a pipeline to SAIT for years - the Trojans have had at least one former Bomber on the roster every year since 2011. One of the team’s top players last season, Zach Huber, played for the Bombers in 2020-21 before the season was cancelled.
Meanwhile, the player Cain was traded for will also be heading to Calgary for the next level of hockey. Jaxon Martens, who played parts of three seasons for the Bombers, will be going to the city as part of the Mount Royal Univ. Cougars, who play in USports.
Martens was sent to the Millionaires in the Cain trade, a team that ended up finishing in last place, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or production from Martens - the Warman, Sask. product, who had 29 points in 33 games as a Bomber pre-trade, added another 17 points in 22 games with the Millionaires.
Another former Bomber dealt to the Mils is also heading away for college hockey, this time further west. Ethan Anstey, who was part of the Bomber team that reached the 2022 finals against Estevan, will join the Univ. of Victoria Vikes in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL). The Yellowknife native played 43 regular season and playoff games with the Bombers mainly as a penalty killer and tight forechecker, scoring one goal and adding four assists. After being traded to Melville midseason, Anstey took full advantage, scoring five goals and 18 points in 35 games, including a two-goal performance against the Bombers in his first game against the team Dec. 2.
Eight former Bombers joined USports teams last season, while seven former Bomber players suited up the ACAC last season - one former player, Caleb Franklin, played in the BCIHL, suiting up with Vancouver Island Univ.
Four Bombers from last year’s team are slated to join NCAA Division I teams either next season or in 2024. Two Bombers - Cain and Alex Von Sprecken - are confirmed to be joining ACAC teams next year, with Von Sprecken joining the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks.