There are those times where you can play a nearly-perfect road game and still come out on the losing end.
That’s what happened to Yellowknife’s Ethan Anstey and his Flin Flon Bombers in April 6 in Estevan, Sask. Even worse? It happened in Game 7.
Anstey and the Bombers had to watch the Estevan Bruins skate around their home ice that evening with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) title as the Bruins shut out the Bombers, 2-0, in the deciding contest of their best-of-seven encounter. The win for the Bruins kept the pattern of the home team winning every game in the series going but Anstey felt it was Flin Flon’s for the taking.
He said they played one of the best road games possible.
“There’s two outcomes: we leave as champs or we leave with regret,” he said. “Seeing them skate around with the trophy, you really wish it was you.”
The first period ended scoreless but Estevan opened the scoring five minutes into the second frame off of a seeing-eye shot from the point where the puck played a bit of pinball, going through a crowd and then in off the post. There wasn’t any more scoring until late in the third period when Flin Flon was given a double-minor for high-sticking (the infraction drew blood). That’s where Estevan scored on what turned into a 4-on-3 power-play to double their lead and it was enough as the Bruins held on for the win and the crown.
“There was no quit among the guys but we knew it would be tough to come back,” said Anstey. “Trying to get two quick goals against their goaltender was going to be tough.”
The Bombers forced Game 7 thanks to a 6-1 win in Game 6 at their barn three nights earlier and Anstey said he felt his side went in with all the momentum.
“We lost Game 5 in overtime and we had our backs to the wall but I would have bet all the money I have that we were winning Game 6,” he said. “We were taking it back to Estevan and our fans were awesome. They call our arena The Zoo because the support we get in this town is just crazy.”
So good was the support that the team had a travelling caravan of fans that made the trip for all of the road games in the final, he added.
The Bombers returned home the night after the loss but all is not over for the team. There’s the small matter of the Centennial Cup, the Canadian Jr. A Championship, to worry about and, even though they fell in the final, the Bombers will be the SJHL representatives. That’s because the Bruins are the host team and already qualified as such. Ten teams from around the country will converge on Estevan beginning on May 19 to determine the best junior A team in Canada.
Anstey said some of the players who live close to Flin Flon went home to spend some time with their families — Anstey stayed in Flin Flon because it was too far for him to go home — and the work for nationals begins later this week.
“Most of the guys are coming back Wednesday,” said Anstey. “I’ve been here working out and preparing for getting back out there.”