For the third time in six seasons, the Flin Flon Bombers are going to the SJHL finals - and have booked their ticket to the Centennial Cup for the first time in more than two decades.
Flin Flon punched their tickets to not only the SJHL final, but also to the Centennial Cup in Estevan next month with a 1-0 victory on the road in Game 5, defeating the Humboldt Broncos and winning their semi-final series 4-1.
The Bombers opened the scoring late in the first period, with Jacob Vockler scoring his fifth of the playoffs on a deflection. Mason Kaspick ended up in the box for goalie interference after getting checked into Bronco goalie Rayce Ramsay by Humboldt's Quinn Myles, but the Bombers would kill the penalty off and escape to the intermission with the one-goal lead.
Little more offence would follow in the second period, with neither team finding the twine. Bronco defender Reilly MacKinnon got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for ripping Matt Raymond's helmet after a whistle, but the Bombers could not convert with the man up.
Shot blocking became the order of the day for the Bombers down the stretch, with Humboldt throwing the kitchen sink at the Bomber end. With just over two minutes to go in the third, Humboldt would pull Ramsay and go for a full 6-on-5 attack. Matt Perkins had a chance at the side of the net, but the puck bobbled on him and skipped into Schell's glove.
With time ticking down, the Bombers would try to keep the puck pinned to the boards to kill as much time as possible. Humboldt, with heavyweights McGrath and Perkins on the ice in a last-ditch attempt to save the season, were held up by the Bomber defence. The horn would go with Flin Flon winning the series.
Cal Schell earned his second shutout of the series and his ninth this year, making 37 saves, including 16 stops in the third period alone. Ramsay finished his junior career with a sterling 28 save performance.
With the series now finished, the Bombers will face the Estevan Bruins for the Canalta Cup. The Bruins, who swept the Yorkton Terriers in their semifinal round, finished the regular season with just one more point than the Broncos - and 20 more points than the Bombers did at the end of the year. The dates have not been set for the final series, but Games 1 and 2 are expected to be in Estevan on April 22 and 23, respectively.
In advancing, the Bombers also guarantee a berth in the Centennial Cup. Estevan, who will host the tournament, have automatically qualified. If Flin Flon wins the league title, they will qualify as league champs - if Estevan wins, the Bombers will qualify as finalists to the already-qualified hosts.
The Bombers have only qualified for the Centennial Cup twice - once after their last league title in 1993 and once in 2001, when the Bombers hosted the tournament then known as the RBC Cup.
Through the five games, the Bombers' defence and goaltending held the SJHL's second most potent offense to just six goals and shut them out twice. The Broncos, who boasted three of the league's top scorers in Connor McGrath, Alec Saretzky and Perkins, saw their top guys shut down.
McGrath, who led the league with 84 points through 56 games, finished the series with only two points, both in the first two games, while Perkins would only chip in a goal and an assist after a season where he put in 59 points in 57 games. Saretzky and his 62 regular season points would be held pointless through all five games of the series.
The Bombers were last in the SJHL final in 2017, when they were swept by the Battlefords North Stars. A season earlier, the Bombers made it to the final, losing to Melfort in six games.
The Broncos' loss signals the end of junior hockey for eight Humboldt players - forwards Braiden Koran, Jerzy Orchard and Alec Saretzky, defenders Nicksha Eric, Cody Hough, Reilly McKinnon and Kade Olsen and goalie Rayce Ramsay.