FLIN FLON, MAN. - The Flin Flon Bombers took over early and scored often, picking up a 4-1 win against the Estevan Bruins to start their best-of-seven first-round series.
Three first period goals did the trick, putting the Bombers up 1-0 in their first-round series in front of 1,145 of the SJHL's loudest fans.
The Bombers applied pressure from the off and opened the scoring with the first goal of the SJHL playoffs seven minutes in. Dawson Karol took a shot from the corner, well behind the goal line, that took two bounces off defenders and snuck through the skates of goalie Cam Hrdlicka. The odds for the play paying off weren't high, but it gave Flin Flon a 1-0 lead anyway.
That lead would be extended not long after, with Cory King blasting a point shot through traffic and past Hrdlicka to make it 2-0, sending the airhorn-filled crowd into a frenzy. Another Bomber play would push that lead to three - a shot from the newly-returned Jacob Vockler was saved by Hrdlicka, but the puck dribbled through his pads and Alexi Sylvestre whacked the loose puck home to give Flin Flon a commanding 3-0 lead.
More chance came before the end of the first, with both Liam Bridger and Kylynn Olafson getting chances to get on the board, but Hrdlicka and the goalposts would strike those down.
Estevan scored early in the second period on a slick group passing play, culminating with Mitch Kohner finding Kade Runke near the side of the net and beating Flin Flon netminder Harmon Laser-Hume. Owen Miley almost drew the Bruins within one on a point shot, but that puck would hit the crossbar, then the arena roof, while Keagon Little also had a quality chance that hit iron.
A late push by the Bombers would commence, leading to Little taking the game's first penalty in the final second.
Brent Gulenchyn nearly restored the three goal lead on that power play on a shot that nailed the crossbar, but Little took another penalty in the third that put the Bombers up a skater. They wouldn't miss that chance, as a Cole Tanchuk net-front pass would get to Vockler, who tipped it up and over Hrdlicka and into the net.
Hrdlicka was pulled for an extra attacker for the final six minutes of the game, but the Bruins couldn't generate offence with a man up. The Bombers took a penalty halfway through, but despite two minutes of 6-on-4 hockey, Laser-Hume and the Bombers stood tall.
At the final whistle, Laser-Hume made 29 stops. Hrdlicka was credited with 45 saves on the night.
The two teams will face off for Game 2 at the Whitney Forum March 18.
Elsewhere in the SJHL, the Weyburn Red Wings made the biggest splash of the night, pulling ahead 1-0 against the Battlefords North Stars by beating the league's top seed in their own rink 3-2. La Ronge also fought back on the road to beat Melfort 3-1, pulling ahead 1-0 in their series, while the Humboldt Broncos defeated Nipawin 5-1 to get the first win.