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Estevan Bruins defeat the top-ranked team in Canadian junior A hockey

Flin Flon lost in regulation for just the third time this season.
Keagon Allison (12) fends off a Bombers' defender during Saturday's game.

ESTEVAN - Ilya Chmelevski scored the winning goal with just over two minutes to play in the third period, and the Estevan Bruins defeated the Flin Flon Bombers 4-2 Saturday night at Affinity Place.

The win snapped the Bombers' nine-game winning streak. Flin Flon has been the top-ranked team in Canadian junior A hockey for most of the season, and had lost just twice in regulation, and four times overall, prior to Saturday night.

Flin Flon came out strong, too, as the Bombers appeared to take a 1-0 lead early in the first on a shot by Alexi Sylvestre during a delayed Bruins' penalty. The goal was waived off after a long conference by the officials because a Bruin player touched the puck before Sylvestre scored, but the Bruins were still short-handed.

Bombers' captain Justin Lies scored on the ensuing power play to give Flin Flon an early 1-0 lead. The Bruins switched goalies, with Cam Hrdlicka replacing Jackson Miller.

The Bruins settled down and trailed by a goal until early in the second when Zachery Burns tied the game for Estevan on a rebound from a Chmelevski shot.

Estevan outplayed the Bombers in the second, outshooting them 14-8 and forcing Bombers' goalie Harmon Laser-Hume to make some big saves, including one on a breakaway for Bruins' forward Carter Onrait, an affiliated player who had played earlier in the day with the Estevan Great North U18 AAA Bears.

The Bruins finally took the lead early in the third on a goal by defenceman Blake Heward, who skated in from the point and beat Laser-Hume with a hard shot.

Flin Flon tied the game with just over five minutes to play on a goal by Riley Niven, one of the few quality chances the Bombers had to score in the third.

"That was a broken-down play by us in the defensive zone. We made a mistake and they made us pay. But give the guys credit, they dug deep and scored the game winner," said Bruins' head coach and GM Jason Tatarnic. 

With overtime looming, Chmelevski capitalized on a Bomber turnover late in the third and fired the puck past a sprawled Laser-Hume.

Alex Papaspyropoulos finished the scoring with an empty-net goal moments later.

Laser-Hume made 33 saves for Flin Flon, while Hrdlicka (27 saves) and Miller (three saves) shared the Bruins' goaltending duties.

"I think with where we are in the standings and the whole playoff race, points are important, and our opponent was Flin Flon tonight, and we needed points," said Tatarnic. "Everyone knows they're a rival and I don't think you need anything besides an Estevan-Flin Flon game to get up for it."

Onrait said it felt "amazing" to beat the top-ranked team in Canada.

"Playing with the Bruins is unreal and I was so glad Tatarnic got the chance to give me the call so I could show up and be here with the boys. It feels good," said Onrait.

The Bruins played the game without forwards Zach Burfoot, Daniel Tokariwski and Raine Hodge. The latter is expected to be back on Tuesday, while Burfoot and Tokariwski are sidelined with injuries. Burfoot is expected back before the end of the season.

Meanwhile, forward Ben Wright has left the club to join the Merritt Centennials of the B.C. Hockey League.

"He made the decision that it's the better option for him, so be it. It opens the door for another guy and we'll continue on," said Tatarnic. 

Estevan (20-20-1-2) sits tied for sixth in the standings with 43 points, one back of the fifth-place Kindersley Klippers. The Bruins will return to the ice Tuesday night when they visit the Yorkton Terriers.