Game 1 of the SJHL Finals did not go the way of the Bombers. Estevan won 4-2 in the first game of the series.
A minute into the game, Flin Flon was a man up: an Alex van Specken cross-check dropped Gabriel Shipper, forcing the Bruins to take down a man. The Bombers didn’t connect with the extra man and the Bruins generated more offense with a man down.
The Bruins opened the scoring on a goal from captain Eric Houk, who reached up to push the puck under Bomber goalkeeper Cal Schell. While searching for the net, Bomber Reece Richmond hit Houk and the two made contact with Schell, causing the Bombers to dispute the goal through goalkeeper interference; despite an argument with the referees from Bomber’s assistant captain Matt Raymond, the goal would stand.
Bomber D almost gave Estevan the second goal, with a fumble that led to a two-on-zero against Schell. The goalkeeper made a great effort, caught and held Flin Flon to one. The Bombers would get some offense late, almost knocking down the puck past Estevan’s Boston Bilous in the final minute of the first, but the puck would go wide: the first 20 would end with the Bruins up 1-0.
Flin Flon would tie the game early in the second period with an unorthodox play. Shipper reached behind Bilous’ net for a puck, but Bilous stepped in front of Shipper, blocking his path. The two players collided, hitting Bilous behind the net, just in time for the puck to go wide. With the puck landing on Zak Smith’s stick at the blue line and Bilous still trapped behind the net, Smith fired into the open cage and made no mistake. Like the Bombers in the first, Estevan argued for goalie interference, and like the first, the goal stood.
Jacob Vockler almost put the Bombers ahead with a highlight play that went wide, but the Bruins were the team that went ahead late in the second. Estevan’s defender, Dayton Deics, got the puck and beat Rylan Thiessen on the outside, throwing a puck into the net and beating Schell over the top. Despite Flin Flon’s early goal, Estevan would lead 2-1 heading into the third.
Flin Flon would get caught up in a parade into the penalty area in the third, culminating in a Caelan Fitzpatrick goal to make it 3-1 for the Bruins. Fitzpatrick almost added a second, but Schell saved despite more contact between player and goalkeeper, drawing the ire of the Flin Flon defense.
However, the game was not over yet. With Schell on the bench, Shipper passed a puck to Smith, who scored his second of the game with just under two minutes left. However, Estevan would make the goal irrelevant, with Cody Davis charging onto the ice for the Bruins in the final minute to score an empty net. Reece Richmond would get the Bombers back on track late with a big hit, but the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Bilous stopped 25 pucks in the win, while Schell made 27 saves.
The Bombers welcomed a couple of players to the lineup after extended absences. Brett Wieschorster, who missed the last three games of the Bombers’ series with Humboldt, returned to play, while Jeremi Tremblay, who hadn’t played since mid-January, dressed for his first game in nearly four months.
The Bruins and Flin Flon will play Game 2 at Affinity Place in Estevan on Saturday night.