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Melfort Mustangs look to sweep Flin Flon Bombers at home in SJHL final

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The Melfort Mustangs are leading the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League [SJHL] championship series 2-0 against the Flin Flon Bombers after winning the first two games on the road.

“We feel like we’re in a very fortunate situation. You know, to be able to play two hard games in probably the toughest rink to play in in Canada, especially against an opponent as good as Flin Flon. We’re really excited to be up 2-0 for sure,” said Mustangs head coach Trevor Blevins.

“Everyone was kind of saying like, ‘It’d be nice to go in there and maybe win one game, go one and one with them,’ but we wanted both of them and ultimately that’s what we did,” said defenceman Danton Cox.

Games 3 and 4 will go Wednesday and Thursday in Melfort and the Mustangs could sweep at home and win their first SJHL championship since 2016. Ironically, that year the Mustangs also defeated the Bombers but did not sweep the series. (4-2)

Blevins grew up in Melfort and even played junior hockey for his hometown Mustangs once upon a time. He eventually made his way into the coaching realm of hockey and has been with the Mustangs for 12 seasons now. He reflected on that 2016 year when he was also head coach.

“It was totally different actually. We were the second place team and I believe they were fifth in the league and got in with an upset in the second round. We had actually finished off Nipawin in Game 7 on a Wednesday night and Game 1 was in Melfort and they had a beat 5-1 that night,” he reminisced.

“We found a way to win Game 2 which set us up. It was kind of a different animal with who had home ice. You know, Mike (Reagan, Flin Flon’s coach) and I have talked about that a lot throughout the years. We actually had a lot of fun, it was excellent.”

The last time the Mustangs were in the SJHL final, they lost in 2019 to the Battlefords North Stars.

“They had a really good hockey club and we had won Game 1 that year in that series and that’s how quickly things can turn and we ended up losing Game 5 here at one,” Blevins shared.

Since Blevins hails from the city of Melfort, which has a typical small town Saskatchewan feel, he knows how much this community rallies behind its community owned junior hockey team.

“When we won Game 7 against Humboldt (last round), that’s all I could really thing about was, ‘It’s just phenomenal to get back to the final for this community and for everyone involved that puts the work in. The volunteer hours, the Board of Directors, the fans, all of the corporate sponsors. We just can’t thank them enough for how they’ve been there every year as our support system,” he said.

“It’s awesome, small towns like this. I mean everybody’s supporting us. You drive down the street and everybody’s waving at you and everybody knows what’s going on,” exclaimed Cox.

In Games 1 and 2 this series, the Mustangs have absolutely dominated the Bombers, winning 9-2 and 4-1. Their starting goalie, James Venne has been a powerhouse between the pipes. He stopped 39 of 41 shots in Game 1 and 42 out of 43 shots in Game 2.

“We don’t think about who the opponent is. At the end of the day, it’s still a hockey game and I still have the same goal of keeping the puck out of the net. I think I rise to the occasion pretty well but my team is unreal. I saw every puck. They box guys out and cleared rebounds, and it’s pretty simple,” Vonne said humbly.

During the regular season, Flin Flon was known as the team to beat amongst the league. They finished in first with a 44-9-2-1 record for 91 points. Melfort finished second with a 38-14-3-1 record, a full 11 points behind the Bombers, but the two teams did split their regular season series 3-3 and averaged the same goals for/against.

“We’ve had success against each other. Both teams have won in each other’s buildings. I still think this series is far from over. For us in team play, we have to get better in a few areas to be successful. Flin Flon’s away record is just as good as their home record. I think they can even play a little bit better on the road,” Blevins said.

“I just think we find ways to be good against these guys and find ways to score on them and also be good on defence and it’s working,” forward, Aidyn Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson is leading the SJHL playoffs in points with 25 in 14 games in his final season of junior hockey and was emotional about the final chance to earn a championship in his junior career.

“Growing up where I’m from, we were always pretty good. I won one provincial championship when I was 15. I haven’t had the privilege to be in that spot (since). It would mean the world to me in my last go at it. These three and a half years have been the best years of my life,” he shared.

Flin Flon also knows the drought of not winning as they have not secured an SJHL championship since 1993. However, they have proven to be a bit of a post-season dynasty as they have not missed the playoffs since their 2006-07 season. In 2022 and 2023, they lost in the league final.

“They’re not going to quit. I have a lot of respect for Mike Reagan as their head coach and really every player in that dressing room. I know they’re not going to mail it in. They’re going to come hungry for Game 3 and 4,” Blevins said.

“It’s obviously our goal to win every single game and, you know, we’re just going to keep working and home ice advantage is a huge thing for us and our fans are going to come out and support us. It should be really good,” Cox exclaimed.

Game 3 gets underway at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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