Bombers, SJHL alumni find NCAA Division I success

With the season over for most American college hockey teams, former Flin Flon Bombers in the NCAA saw some success this year.

Eight former Bombers were part of NCAA Division I rosters this year and for the second consecutive year, forward Caleb Moretz hit the scoresheet the most. The Fairbanks, Alaska native, wrapping up his sophomore season with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers, ended the year with 10 points in 15 games. Last season, Moretz scored 24 points in 36 games as a Tigers freshman.

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This season, Moretz was joined at RIT by former Bomber teammate and childhood friend Calvon Boots, who transferred to the school from American International University - Boots had one assist on the season in his first full year of college play.

Forward Chrystopher Collin, one year removed from being traded to the Maritimes by the Bombers at the start of last season, fit in well in his first year of college puck. Joining the Bowling Green Falcons, Collin finished his first season with four points in 21 games. Interestingly, Collin had a similar stat line in his first junior A season in Quebec before coming to Flin Flon and exploding for 50 points.

Cade Kowalski had two points in 10 games as a sophomore with the Ferris State Bulldogs, while Donavan Houle-Villeneuve also had two points in 16 outings in his freshman year with the University of Maine Black Bears. Greyson Reitmeier, the former SJHL player of the year, finished his senior year with the Michigan Tech Huskies with one point in 11 games. Defenseman Cory Thomas, known as a prototypical shutdown D during his two seasons as a Bomber, wrapped up his final year of college hockey with no points in 13 games. Another former Bomber defenseman, two-time SJHL defenseman of the year Eric Sinclair, did not dress this season - his college club, the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, never hit the ice. The team opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, suspending all operations for indoor winter sports after announcing previously that the team would be cut altogether for 2021/22 due to budget cuts.

Michigan

Meanwhile, Flin Flon’s Mel Pearson and his Univ. of Michigan Wolverines have ended their season, coming up short of the NCAA title despite not losing a game in the national tournament.

The Wolverines, ranked eighth in the American college hockey ranks, were ruled out of the NCAA Championship after members of the team tested positive for COVID-19. The team was slated to play the Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth, the two-time reigning national champs and ninth-ranked team nationally, in a semi-final game. With the Wolverines unable to play, the Bulldogs moved on by default, heading into the midwest regional final with the Univ. of North Dakota Fighting Hawks which they won in a quintuple-overtime thriller.

In a statement, Pearson - the son of former Bomber legend Mel Pearson - said he was disappointed to see the Wolverines’ season end how it had.

"I'm devastated for these players. These student-athletes have done a wonderful job all year of making sacrifices to get to this point of the year. It's unfortunate. I don't completely understand the final decision but I have to respect it,” he said.

"They've given so much and to get this opportunity taken away from them, it's hard to swallow. I know it's just a game, but it's extremely important to these young men. It's two years in a row now we've been denied an opportunity to compete in the national championship. It hasn't quite sunk in yet.”

Tournament

Only four teams are left in the NCAA’s national title tournament as of press time - Minnesota-Duluth, the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks, the UMass Amherst Minutemen and the St. Cloud State Huskies. The Frozen Four teams will play national semifinals April 8, with the top two teams remaining playing for the national championship April 10.

Three former SJHL players are part of the last four teams. Chris Van Os-Shaw, a former member of the Weyburn Red Wings and Humboldt Broncos and a former CJHL Player of the Year, is part of the Minnesota State-Mankato team. A pair of former Notre Dame Hounds - goaltender Ben Patt and defender Luke Mylymok - are on the roster of Minnesota-Duluth, with Mylymok scoring the overtime winner that knocked out North Dakota March 27.

No Bombers alumni played on teams that qualified for this year’s national tournament.

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