Going south has sent the Flin Flon Bombers north in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings.
After earning points in every game of a four-game southern road trip earlier this month, the Bombers split with Yorkton, and, last week, downed Weyburn and Estevan. The squad is 6-2-0-2 in its last 10 games. What has made the team successful as of late?
“I attribute a lot of it to our southern swing,” Flin Flon head coach Mike Reagan said. “I think we learned a lot about who we are as a team and how to play the right way. We had the hiccup against Yorkton the one game, but otherwise we have been really good the last three weeks here.
“I don’t know if it’s just guys buying into what we are preaching or what the big turnaround is but we are playing the way I expect us to play.”
The Bombers are in the battle for the SJHL lead. The Kindersley Klippers, 8-1-1-0 in their last 10, paced the league, as of Sunday, with 25 points. Flin Flon, Nipawin, and Humboldt all had 24 points and were tied for second place.
“I think that the league is a lot deeper than it has been in the past,” Reagan said. “There is no clear cut favourite.”
Last week at the Whitney Forum, the Bombers beat Estevan, 4-2, and dropped Weyburn, 7-4.
“I was really happy with the way the guys played,” Reagan said. “Estevan is a better team than their record (8-10-0-0) indicates. I thought that was a really solid win.”
In those games, the Bombers experienced some adversity in the third period. For example, the Bruins scored and Flin Flon was able to respond to prevent a comeback.
“We have talked about it as a team that adversity throughout the year is a good thing,” Reagan said. “We have to continue to overcome those challenges. It is only going to make us better.”
After a somewhat slow start, the Bombers’ power play has emerged as a force. They scored four power-play goals on eight chances against Weyburn. On the season, the Flin Flon power play is fourth in the SJHL at 22.9 per cent.
“Our power play is clicking,” Reagan said. “It is real hot. … With the amount of talent we have, it should be one of the most deadly power plays in the league.”
The Bombers bench boss said the units are understanding the concepts of working together and are looking for other opportunities if certain looks are not there. Reagan praised Nate Hooper for his distribution of pucks. As of Sunday, Hooper was tied for the league-lead in power-play assists with 11. Brandson Hein had seven power-play goals, which tied him for the SJHL lead. Hein was tops in the league in power-play points with 14 while Hooper and Daylan Marchi, with 12 points each, were ranked fourth and fifth.
When the other team has a power-play, the Bombers have been pretty stingy about giving up goals. The squad was fourth in the SJHL with an 82.7 per cent penalty kill.
“Our penalty kill has been pretty good for the most part all year,” Reagan said. “That’s just guys buying in.”
The penalty kill has also translated to effective offence at times for the Bombers. The team leads the league with seven shorthanded goals. Hein has an SJHL-best three shorthanded goals while he and Caleb Moretz are tied for the league lead with three shorthanded points.
“I think that is just because we have so many dangerous weapons who kill penalties for us,” Reagan said. “When we do get an opportunity to turn it into offence, we’re more than willing to.”