The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) is in playoff mode and that’s where you’ll find Yellowknife’s Ethan Anstey preparing for another post-season.
The 19-year-old forward and his Flin Flon Bombers are preparing to kick off the quarter-finals against the Battlefords North Stars with Game 1 in North Battleford on Friday evening. It’s a battle of fourth vs. fifth in the league following the regular season with the Bombers finishing just behind the North Stars in the standings.
That makes no difference to Anstey, who said it’s a toss-up but he feels the Bombers are much better than the standings show.
“We played them six times (in the regular season) and won four of them,” he said. “I only played in two of those games but the coaching staff said we should’ve won all six. It doesn’t show how well we played all season. I feel like we should be a top-three team but we had a bad February.”
How bad was it? The Bombers were sitting in third place at the start of the month, 14 points up ahead of the fourth-placed team at the time. A four-game losing streak was the exclamation mark on what was a miserable February for the team.
“That losing streak was the longest one we had all year but I’m glad we went through it then and not now,” said Anstey. “A four-game losing streak in the playoffs means you’re out and we faced some tough moments back then. It’s easier to have that happen in the regular season because you learn from it and you make sure you fix it before the playoffs begin. It was a speed bump.”
The reason Anstey only played in two of those six contests is because he’s only been a member of the Bombers since January. He began the season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BC Hockey League, where he played with fellow Yellowknifer Sam Schofield, before being dealt to the Bombers early in the new year. He played 15 games with the Bombers, putting up two assists in that time.
Anstey said Flin Flon is a lot like Yellowknife.
“Same type of weather, same type of landscape, same type of feel,” he said. “If I’m being honest, I liked not having to go out and start my car in the morning. I didn’t have to do that in B.C. but Flin Flon has treated me really well.”
The first two games of the series are in North Battleford on Friday and Saturday with Games 3 and 4 in Flin Flon on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Game 5 will be in North Battleford, Game 6 in Flin Flon and Game 7 in North Battleford.
Should the Bombers emerge victorious, Anstey isn’t fussy who they get in the semifinal because there’s one goal in mind.
“Getting to the RBC Cup (Canadian Jr. A Championship) is what we want,” he said. “Our coach, Mike Regan, has been coaching here 15 years and he’s never been there. He tells us he’s a Bomber for life and that’s our mindset — get to the national championship. I don’t care who we have to play to get there.”