The Flin Flon Bombers and Nipawin Hawks skated to a tie in the season series with three wins apiece. The las time these two met was January 15, so when these two teams meet in this series it will be for the first time in almost two months. The Hawks at one time won three straight against Flin Flon, scoring 12 goals in that span. The last time they met Flin Flon fired 50 shots on the Hawks net enroute to that 2-1 OT win.
Big Story: With high praise at the beginning of the year, both Flin Flon and Nipawin where heavy favorites for the SJHL crown this season. It was a tough middle portion of the season that put the Flin Flon Bombers in the position they are in right now. They started the season hot, winners of eight straight to start the season. Nipawin were in the same boat, they had a tough start but came on hot down the stretch to jump into second place. Both teams are tough to play against in their home rink, but each had two wins on each other’s ice this year.
Hawks: The Nipawin Hawks enter the playoffs on a hot streak. Having points in nine straight games and winners in seven of their last 10, the Hawks took the month of January and February to jump past the Bombers into second place in the North. The team got a boost at the beginning of January when former SJHL Rookie of the Year Eli Lichtenwald return to the club after two season in the USHL. The team also added 1992 born defenseman Carter Berg from the Melfort Mustangs at the trade deadline. Since January 1st, the Hawks only lost six games down the stretch, three of those in extra time.
Bombers: The Bombers enter the 2013 playoffs on a two game winning streak and winners of seven in their last 10 games, one of those in overtime. The Bombers had a great OT record this season only losing once this season, just three games ago in La Ronge. The team has this year’s winner of the Rookie of the Year in Brett Boehm and the league’s Top Defenseman and runner up to the league’s MVP in Josh Roach. The team held on to top spot for a good portion of the season but lost it when Humboldt and Nipawin got hot.
Keys to the Series:
Depth: The Flin Flon Bombers boast depth. Scoring was down all year for the entire league but the Bombers still sat atop the SJHL standings in goals for with 198, second only to the Melville Millionaires. The team had three players in the top 10 in SJHL scoring and have seven players with 30 points or more. Riley Storzuk was on pace for 70 points this year but spent some time on the injury list. Boehm had a excellent breakout year in the SJHL averaging over a point a game and leading all rookies all season in scoring. The team also had offence on the back end with Josh Roach also leading all defensemen in scoring. Dillan McCombie started the season slow but has picked it up going into the playoffs and finished with 21 goals, second only to Boehm on the team. Despite the usual suspects, captain Dylan Balaski, Brett Penner and Jason Wark, who was acquired at the deadline, all had contributing factors in the season, and will be relied on heavily in the playoffs.
The Hawks sat in fifth in team scoring for the season, most of it coming from their top guns in Wheaton King, Tad Kozun and Jesse Bernard. As stated above, the team got a boost when Lichtenwald returned to the club in January; he finished with over a point a game. The team spreads the scoring around with seven players over 20 points, but as said previously, most of it comes from the top three scorers who all were in the top 15 in SJHL scoring.
Goaltending: Flin Flon was solid in the pipes starting the SJHL season with returning Rookie of the Year Devin Buffalo. Buffalo finished in the top 5 in league netminders in most categories including goals against average (2.42), save percentage (0.927) and wins (23). Behind him is arguably the league’s best number two guy in Brandon Wildung. Wildung, who came to Flin Flon on a tryout, posted excellent numbers. He had a 2.62 GAA; a 0.926 save percentage and had 11 wins to only six losses.
In the other end could be Buffalo’s mirror image in Davis Jones. Jones had a better goals against average (2.39) but was behind him in save percentage (0.926), and had one less win (22) in the same amount of games. Jones will be remembered by the Flin Flon faithful when in the team’s last meeting, when he made 50 saves as the Bombers edged the Hawks 2-1 in overtime.
Home Ice: Only the Yorkton Terriers had more wins at home than the Flin Flon Bombers, who had 22. Nipawin was close behind with 20 on the season, but that wasn’t a big advantage this season between the two clubs. Both teams won two games on each other’s ice and the Hawks took Flin Flon to overtime once at the Whitney Forum.
Puck Drop: Will the Bombers stand up the pre season hype and have a deep playoff run? Will the Hawks continue their hot play down the stretch? Only time will tell.
The Road to the Canalta Cup begins on Friday when the Flin Flon Bombers take on the Nipawin Hawks in the first game of the North Division Survivor Series.