Game seven loss ends Bombers playoff run

The Flin Flon Bombers’ season came to an end, but definitely not without a fight.

After three games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League quarterfinals, the seventh-seed Bombers trailed the second-seed Battlefords North Stars 3-0. Amazingly, the Bombers battled their way back, including winning game four in overtime and game five in triple overtime, to force a seventh contest.

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“It was pretty impressive that the guys fought so hard to come from behind. … To be down 3-0, I think that shows the character of the guys and how bad they wanted to win and to be relentless,” Flin Flon head coach Mike Reagan said. “Because there are not a lot of teams that would fight that hard to get back in a series. It just says something about them as individuals. I was proud of them for being capable of doing that and sticking to it, never giving up. We were so close to making an epic run.”

In game seven, Battlefords took a 3-0 first period lead. Reagan said, “I think as the game went on, we tightened things up and played better and tried to make a last push. … It was just too much to come back from.”

In the regular season, the Bombers posted a 34-20-1-3 record. In January, the squad had a nine-game winning streak and went 9-1 earlier in the season. Reagan said this year’s forward group was the most talented he has coached in his 12 seasons with the team. With the addition of Tyler Higgins, Reagan felt the Flin Flon defensive core really came around.

“When we were on, I thought that we could beat anybody in the country,” Reagan said. “When we were off, we struggled to beat maybe some of the lesser teams in the country. That’s how fragile we were at times, where confidence played such a factor in our ability to win hockey games. If there is one thing that I wish we could have done better is to be a little more consistent in our play and more consistent in our confidence to win.”

The loss to Battlefords brought to a close the junior careers of eight Bombers in their 20-year-old seasons:  Isaac Jackson, who grew up partially in Flin Flon; Winnipeggers Nate Hooper (captain) and Brandson Hein; the Fairbanks, Alaska trio of Caleb Moretz, Calvin Boots, and Ethan Daniels; Daylan Marchi from Lethbridge and Beaconsfield, Que. product Tyler Higgins. When asked about this group, Reagan said they are “just unbelievable people.”

“I think this is one of the better groups of 20-year-olds I have ever had as far as quality of individuals,” he said. “Never had a problem with them. They bought in. They did a good job leading. They are just team guys. A group that you never had to worry about. It made my job easy. I really appreciated every one of them.”

In addition to the 20-year-olds, the Bombers will likely lose a couple other players. Cade Kowalski, who paced the team in playoff scoring, is slated to join the NCAA Division I Ferris State University men’s hockey team next season. Vaughan Bamford is to depart early for NCAA Division III Lake Forest College.

However, the Bombers have a number of talented players who could return. In Waked and rookie netminder Jacob Delorme, the team believes it has two potential starting goalies. Five defencemen are eligible to return. Up front such forwards as Chrystopher Collin, Donavan Houle-Villeneuve, Vincent Nardone and Caleb Franklin, among others, could be back.

“I think we are going to have to win a different way, but I think there are guys who kind of flew under the radar this year that will be returning that are capable of stepping up and filling some of these holes,” Reagan said.

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