FLIN FLON, Man. - The Flin Flon Bombers took over in the third period and snagged a 5-2 win over the Estevan Bruins, moving up 2-0 in their first-round series.
Game 2 was a much more physical affair than the series opener, but the Bombers would strike first. Jaeden Mercier, back in the lineup after a lengthy stretch with injuries, got his first goal in more than two months, snagging a bounce in the slot from a point shot and burying it past Estevan goalie Cam Hrdlicka.
The first of several big skirmishes took place not long after, as Estevan defender Holdin Getzlaf and Bomber Jacob Vockler collided in front of the Bruin net and bumped into Hrdlicka, who went down hard, drawing a crowd. When the dust settled, both teams would get penalties - Vockler for goaltender interference and Hrdlicka for embellishment.
Another big brouhaha came after Flin Flon's Rylan Pearce nailed Estevan's Mitch Kohner with a high hit, causing him to fall to the ice hurt and bringing in more sound and fury nearby. Kohner was helped to the dressing room in pain following the hit, but came back to play the final two periods. Pearce was ejected from the game and hit with a five-minute penalty for a hit to the head.
With five minutes with a man up, Estevan gave up a few short-handed chances for the Bombers, but tied the game four minutes in. Aleksa Babic tied the game up with a blast from the point late in the frame, sending both teams to their dressing rooms tied at one.
The second period saw ping-pong hockey throughout, with the Bruins getting early momentum. Scrums came up after every whistle and both teams took chances. With three minutes to go, Jagjeevan Phangura took a tripping penalty and gave the Bombers a powerplay, which would be a turning point for the home team.
After a four-car pileup in the Estevan slot, Alexi Sylvestre found the puck, muscled it out of the scrum and took a whack at the net, bouncing it over Hrdlicka and in to give Flin Flon the lead - one they would take with them into the third and, in the end, never relinquish.
The Bombers woke back up in the third. With a lead back on the board and Bomber Barron Stibbe back on the ice - the forward was cut and bloodied by an errant stick early in the first, but came back with a large bandage on the side of his head and a new sweater for the third - Flin Flon gained momentum.
The Whitney Forum's typical loud air horns were moved around the rink in the lead-up to Game 2, after alleged complaints following liberal use of the noisemakers in Game 1. The complaints brought to mind Estevan's rules against airhorns for Bomber fans during last year's SJHL final, which were used as fodder for chants during the game - Bomber fans chanted "We're too loud" at the Bruins bench and players throughout the third.
With the noise in the Forum at a fever pitch, the Bombers responded. First, Vockler got on the board three minutes in with a deflection, batting the puck out of the air and past Hrdlicka. Moments later, Brock Mueller banged in a rebound to put the Bombers up 4-1 - then, with Bruin Tyler Guy in the box, Ethan Mercer shovelled a backhand rebound past Hrdlicka to make it 5-1.
Hrdlicka was pulled for backup Jackson Miller after the third-period media timeout. Miller would spend the rest of the game skating between the crease and the Estevan bench, as the Bruins pulled their goalie with more than nine minutes left in the third period, down four goals. The Bruins would get one goal in the final minutes - Phangura took advantage of a Harmon Laser-Hume puck miscue to cut the lead to three - but that was as close as the visitors would get. While most of the second half of the third was in the Bomber zone, the home team staved the Bruins off.
Laser-Hume stopped 27 shots on the night to get his second straight win - Hrdlicka made 33 saves, while Miller stopped three pucks in his third-period relief stint.
With the Bombers now ahead 2-0 in the series, the games shift to Estevan's Affinity Place for Games 3 and 4 March 21 and 22. If needed, the Bombers would host a Game 5 at the Forum March 24.
Elsewhere in the SJHL playoffs, the Humboldt Broncos sent a message to Nipawin in Game 2, winning 7-1 and moving to a 2-0 lead in their series. Battlefords got their revenge against Weyburn for a shock home loss Friday night, coming back for a 5-2 victory to tie the series going back to Weyburn. Melfort's Zac Somers was the Mustangs' overtime hero barely a minute into the extra frame, giving Melfort a 3-2 win and tying their series.