Bombers: Malo a potent force up front

It might have been a couple years later than Mike Reagan would have liked, but both the Bombers’ head coach and general manager and forward Alec Malo are happy that the latter is a member of the Flin Flon Bombers.

At a Quebec tournament in 2017, Reagan discovered a line he liked and wanted all three of them to come to Manitoba. One of the players, Donavan Houle-Villeneuve, took Reagan up on his offer for the following fall. Now, two seasons later, Malo has joined his former and current linemate. As of Sunday, the centreman was first in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in scoring with 33 points in 17 games.

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“His hockey IQ is through the roof, and his playmaking ability and composure,” Reagan said. “He’s the quarterback on our powerplay and he does a phenomenal job. He has great chemistry with Houle and (Cole) Rafuse. I think that he has been a guy that makes players around him better.”

Reagan scouted Malo, Houle-Villeneuve and Alexis Gaboury-Potvin at the tournament. Both Malo and Gaboury-Potvin opted to try the major junior route. Malo played for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as an 18-year-old. Last season, he competed in junior A for the Montreal-Est Rangers.

“We are three best friends that are always together,” Malo said of himself, Houle-Villeneuve and Gaboury-Potvin. “We work and train together back home and basically live together, so we talked a lot about Flin Flon.”

When circumstances arose for Malo to seek a new team, he said that the Bombers were a “no brainer for me.” While Gaboury-Potvin is playing for the junior A West Island Shamrocks in the Montreal area, Malo is thrilled to be in Flin Flon. He billets with Tim and Holly Babcock, who he said are amazing while noting that he really feels at home with them. They are one of the reasons he is having fun in Flin Flon.

“I really enjoy being part of the best franchise in the SJHL and maybe even of all junior,” Malo said. “Also, we have incredible fans and the atmosphere at the rink is awesome. The support for the team is unreal. I always see people walking with Bomber gear on and it makes us proud to be Bombers.”

Malo, Houle-Villeneuve and Rafuse have quickly become a potent offensive force. As of Sunday, Houle-Villeneuve was third in the SJHL with 29 points while Rafuse was fifth with 27. Houle-Villeneuve was tied for the league lead with 17 goals in as many games.

“I think what has allowed Cole, Donavan and myself to be so successful is that we have a really good connection on and off the ice,” the 20-year-old Malo said. “We talk a lot and we always try to push ourselves and motivate each other.”

Last week, the trio helped the Bombers win three road games in as many days. Flin Flon beat Humboldt 5-2, Kindersley 9-2 and the Klippers again 3-2 on Oct 24-26. Reagan was pleased with the team’s approach to the trip, including its focus on the Humboldt contest, which he said set the tone for the trip. On a similar road trip earlier this month, the Bombers went 0-1-2-0 with a pair of overtime losses.

“Getting the first win is huge for the confidence,” Reagan said. “I think we were also a little upset about dropping points that we should have had the previous trip. We got good goaltending throughout the trip, which you need in order to win. Our special teams were amazing as we didn’t allow a powerplay goal against and we scored in each game on the powerplay. We set a goal at the beginning of the trip to have the number one penalty kill and powerplay by the end of the trip and we accomplished that, which was huge.”

As of Sunday, the Bombers’ powerplay was converting on 33 per cent of its chances – 12 percentage points ahead of second-place Melfort. The team also led the league in penalty kill percentage at 88 per cent. With a 12-3-2-0 record, the team was also first in the Sherwood Division and second in the SJHL with 26 points. Battlefords topped the league standings at 17-1-0-0 with 34 points.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Malo, a product of Laval, paced the league with 25 assists and had eight goals after the weekend. He was first with 20 powerplay points and 16 powerplay assists.

“His vision of the ice is incredible,” Reagan said. “He just makes everyone around him better. He’s good at slowing down the game and just finding guys, especially on the powerplay. You give him time and space and he’s going to pick you apart.”

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