The Flin Flon Bombers are the only team playing at this year’s Centennial Cup in Estevan, Sask., which didn’t win their respective league title to qualify.

But that’s not stopping them from proving they belong.

The Bombers, representing the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, have clinched a playoff spot at the Canadian Jr. A Championship. They did so thanks to a 2-1 shootout win over the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League on Tuesday evening. That gave the Bombers a record of three wins and one loss but they could win their division if both the Kings and Summerside Jr. Capitals from the Maritime Hockey League both lose in regulation time on Wednesday.

The Bombers are the only team not in action as they’re on a bye.

Yellowknife’s Ethan Anstey has played in all four Bombers games so far and he said the shootout win over Dauphin was a nerve-wracker.

“I was doing a lot of praying on the bench,” he said following the game on Tuesday. “Those two goals we got in the shootout? Those were two of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen.”

Both teams ended up tied at 1-1 following regulation time and sudden-death overtime solved nothing, though Flin Flon had the vast majority of chances in the extra frame to finish it.

“Respect to Dauphin’s goaltender, for sure,” said Anstey. “He made some unbelievable saves in overtime.”

The Bombers kicked things off on May 19 against the Soo Thunderbirds, champions of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, and came away with a 6-1 win. They followed that up by beating the Ottawa Jr. Senators of the Central Canada Hockey League two nights later, 3-2, in overtime.

Anstey said things couldn’t have gotten off on a better foot.

“That gave us plenty of confidence and it helped us get into it,” he said. “But we didn’t want to be cocky because we saw what happens when you take a game off.”

Yes, something does happen when you take a game off: you end up losing to the Capitals, 4-1. The Bombers opened the scoring with Anstey drawing an assist on that marker but it was all Capitals from that point.

Anstey said the team just didn’t show up for that one.

“We got an early one but we just didn’t come to play that game,” he said. “I think we got a bit too comfortable being in the situation we were in and our coach (Mike Reagan) told us not to let other teams decide if we’re going to get into the playoffs.”

The Bombers will have at least two days off now and their next game depends on how the standings finish up. If they end up first, they get a bye through the quarter-final and will play in a semifinal on Saturday. If they end up finishing second or third, they play a quarter-final on Friday.

No matter how it ends up, Anstey said he’s having the time of his life playing in this tournament.

“This is the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in,” he said. “I’ve never had an experience like this and everything I’ve done in hockey is all worth it because of this moment. All the hours, all the practices — I’ve been waiting for something like this my whole life.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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