Eight Bombers veterans hope for final success

All eight Flin Flon Bombers in their final junior hockey season are firmly focused on doing whatever they can to help the team succeed in the playoffs.

“This is all our last kick at the can in junior hockey and it’s important that all the 20-year-olds bring everything we’ve got to each and every game and that’ll help the team have success,” said captain Nate Hooper.

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The Bombers finished the season in seventh place and will open the postseason in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League seven-versus-10 wild card series. As of press time for The Reminder the team’s opponent was unknown as Weyburn and Melville were competing for the final SJHL playoff spot.

This season’s crop of Bomber 20-year-olds hail from four Canadian provinces and one U.S. state. The group includes three defencemen and five forwards.

“They are just a great group of guys,” Flin Flon head coach Mike Reagan said. “They all work hard and want to win. I think that each one of them brings something different and they complement each other.”

One thing the veterans have in common is their appreciation for the Whitney Forum faithful.

“It feels like you’ve got an army behind you when you play in front of the Flin Flon fans,” said Caleb Moretz, a 20-year-old forward. “They make you want to give 110 per cent all the time because that’s what they give you and you don’t want to disappoint them.”

Hooper and Isaac Jackson have both played all three of their Junior ‘A’ seasons with the Bombers. A defenceman, Jackson grew up in Flin Flon before moving to Warman as a teenager. He went from playing 10 games as a rookie on a very deep blueline that went to the SJHL finals to being a key player and veteran leader this season. Jackson had a career-best 25 points through the 2018-2019 regular season.

As a rookie, Hooper centred two of the league’s top scorers in Greyson Reitmeier and Jason Lavallee. Last season, he was the Bombers’ leading scorer. He is repeating that feat during this campaign. As of Sunday, the Winnipeg product was fourth in the league in points with 84 and first in assists with 59 in 57 games.

During the Bombers’ 2016-2017 campaign, which ended in the league finals, Daylan Marchi was acquired partway through the season. The Lloydminster product, who spent time growing up in Sparwood, B.C., contributed as a role player. That role has increased each year. He has posted career highs of 21 goals and 51 points while playing a gritty style.

Last season, the Bombers brought in a trio of 19-year-olds from Fairbanks, Alaska who played hockey in Colorado. Defenceman Calvon Boots was the Sherwood Division Rookie of the Year and this season was the division’s Defenceman of the Year. As of Sunday, he was third in the SJHL in blueline scoring with 42 points in 43 games.

Boots grew up playing hockey with current Bomber forwards Moretz and Ethan Daniels. With 21 goals as of Sunday, Moretz has almost doubled the 12 he had as a rookie. The skilled forward had 51 points in 44 games this season. He has earned a scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

After putting up 32 points in his first year, Daniels opted to stay in his hometown and study at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, majoring in finance with a minor in accounting. In January, he opted to return to the Bombers. Through 12 games, the power forward had six points.

“I decided to come back to play for the Bombers because I missed playing hockey, and I want to win a championship,” said Daniels, who plans to attend law school in the future.

After playing a season- and-a-half in the Western Hockey League with the Everett Silvertips, Brandson Hein joined the Bombers at the 2018 trade deadline. The Winnipegger, a friend and ex-midget teammate of Hooper’s, quickly impressed with his skill. With one game remaining, Hein was sixth in the SJHL with 75 points and second with 42 goals.

In November of 2018, the Bombers added another veteran with a major junior background. The 6-foot-4 Tyler Higgins has added size and experience. The defenceman had previously played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Through 23 games with the Bombers, Higgins had three goals, nine points, and 92 penalty minutes.

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