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Tale of the tape: Rematch coming as Bombers, North Stars will meet in semis

The Bombers' second-round playoff opponent will be a very familiar one. Flin Flon will collide with the Battlefords North Stars for the sixth time in the last eight playoffs.
Bomber captain Justin Lies fist bumps young fans gathered outside the team's dressing room during Game 2 at the Whitney Forum.

The Bombers' second-round playoff opponent will be a very familiar one. Flin Flon will collide with the Battlefords North Stars for the sixth time in the last eight playoffs.

The Bombers' second-round matchup would be determined by the result of a Game 7 between Humboldt and Weyburn Tuesday - if the Broncos won, the Bombers would face the Stars, while a Red Wings win would solidify a series between Weyburn and Flin Flon.

Weyburn took the most penalties in the SJHL this past season and discipline ended up ending their season. With the game still a scoreless tie early in the first, the Wings' Jacob Visentini and Jerome Maharaj took penalties and gave Humboldt a five-on-three powerplay. That proved to be a turning point as Humboldt scored on both penalties, first on a Boris Kofman wrister, then on a Spencer Bell shot that got through traffic. An empty-netter made it 3-0 Humboldt, knocking out the Wings.

With that result, the Bombers and Stars will now face each other in the semifinals, while the Mustangs and Broncos will turn their semifinal series into a horse race. 

The series is a rematch of last season's SJHL finals series, where the Stars swept the Bombers en route to a league title for the second time in six seasons. It is the third straight year the Bombers and Stars will meet in the playoffs and the sixth time in the last eight playoffs - the Stars have won three of those series.

The Bombers have the advantage through the season series between them and the Stars, beating Battlefords in three of their four matchups. Flin Flon won the first two games between both teams on the road, first taking a 5-4 overtime victory Jan. 26 in North Battleford, then a 4-2 win a night later at Battleford Arena. The Bombers then won 5-3 at home against the Stars Feb. 16 before suffering an 8-6 loss in their final meeting of the year a night later.

Both teams faltered down the stretch run of the regular season. The Bombers went 4-5-0-1 in their final 10 games, while the Stars had a similar record, going 4-5-1-0, losing to both Yorkton and Notre Dame and dropping from second in the league standings down to fourth. The Stars pulled out of their tailspin late though, winning their final three regular season matchups before, like the Bombers, sweeping their first round opponents.

The Stars' forward attack this year has centred on one player - two-time league MVP Kian Bell, who lead the SJHL in points for the second straight season this year. Bell had 37 goals and 94 points in 41 games this year, then followed that with 10 points in the Stars' four games against Melville. Bell had points in all four games the Stars played against Flin Flon - two goals and seven assists, leading his team in scoring.

Surrounding Bell are centre Ben Portner, who finished the season as the Stars' second leading scorer with 69 points, winger Bradley Blake and top defence pair Tanner Gold and Alex Izyk. Portner and Bell are the only Stars to have points in all four games against the Bombers this year.

The Stars had trouble finding a bonafide number one goalie early in the season, but appear to have found their guy in former Edmonton Oil King Logan Cunningham - the Edmonton native played every minute of the team's Melville series and has a 13-3-0-0 regular season record since joining the team in December.

While Bell's numbers are impressive, he is not the leading scorer in games between the Bombers and Stars this season. That distinction goes to a pair of Bombers - captain Justin Lies, who scored at least one goal in all four games and has five goals and five assists in the games and Alexi Sylvestre, who has four goals and six assists in those games. The Bombers will be without Sylvestre for Game 1 - he's out serving the second game of a suspension issued during the Bombers/Klippers series. Both Lies and Carter Anderson have points in all four Bombers/Stars games this season.

Game 1 will be played at the Whitney Forum Thursday night, with Game 2 taking place Friday night. After a day away April 6 - the SJHL does not schedule games on this date, the anniversary of the infamous Humboldt Broncos bus crash - the series will continue in North Battleford with Game 3 April 8 and Game 4 April 9.

44-9-2-1 Regular season record 26-15-4-1
3-1-0-0 Head-to-head record 1-2-1-0
Sherwood Division Global Ag Risk Solutions
1st in Sherwood Division finish 2nd in Global Ag Risk Solutions
Loss in final (to BAT) Last season result League champions
Beat Kindersley in four games Last series result Beat Melville in four games
Justin Lies (55-41-35-76) Leading scorers (regular season) Kian Bell (41-37-57-94)
Jacob Vockler (53-22-51-73) 2 Ben Portner (50-28-41-69)
Alexi Sylvestre (56-32-40-72) 3 Bradley Blake (55-20-36-56)
Noah Houle (52-12-56-68) 4 Alex Izyk (50-17-39-56)
Carter Anderson (40-36-26-62) 5 Tanner Gold (51-11-39-50)
Sylvestre (3-4-3-7) Leading scorers (playoffs) Bell (4-5-5-10)
Anderson (4-3-4-7) 2 Portner (4-2-3-5)
Lies (4-3-4-7) 3 Blake (4-1-3-4)
Houle (4-0-7-7) 4 Gold (4-0-3-3)
Vockler (4-3-2-5) 5 Hunter Burgeson (4-2-0-2)
Harmon Laser-Hume (38 GP, 28-6-1-1, 2.20 GAA, .939 SV% regular season, 4 GP, 4-0-0, .75 GAA, .975 SV% playoffs) Starting goalie Logan Cunningham (17 GP, 13-3-0-0, 3.44 GAA, .894 SV% regular season, 4 GP, 4-0-0, 1.71 GAA, .940 SV% playoffs)
Mike Reagan Head coach Brayden Klimosko
4.36 Goals per game 4.54
2.3 Goals against per game 3.38
4.75 Goals per game (playoffs) 3.5
0.75 Goals against per game (playoffs) 1.75
Two (Houle, Sylvestre) NCAA Division I committed players One (Carson Olsen)
Nine (Anthony Bax, Matt Egan, Houle, Laser-Hume Lies, Adam McNutt, Riley Niven, Tyson Smith, Vockler) 2003-born players Eight (Bell, Blake, Burgeson, Riley Girod, Gold, Izyk, Josh Medernach, Evan Waldie)
Four (Anderson, Lies, McNutt, Niven) Major junior players Five (Bell, Cunningham, Medernach, Waldie, Treycen Wuttunee)
2nd CJHL Top 20 ranking (year-end) honourable mention
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