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Bombers sweep way to SIJHL championship with overtime triumph

Jonah Smith scored the championship-winning goal at 5:23 of overtime.
Sioux Lookout Bombers goaltender Jack Osmond hoists the Bill Salonen Cup on Sunday, April 21, 2024 at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena.

SIOUX LOOKOUT – You only need one shot.

That’s the message delivered by Sioux Lookout Bombers coach Carson Johnstone as they took the ice for overtime in Game 4 of the Superior International Junior Hockey League championship.

Jonah Smith heard the message loud and clear.

The veteran Bombers forward won a race for the puck five minutes into the extra frame on Sunday at Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena, raced in alone on Kam River Fighting Walleye goaltender Ashton Sadauskas and buried the puck for the Bill Salonen Cup winner.

The next few minutes were a blur, his teammates pouring off the bench and mobbing the Lac La Biche, Alta. native, the over-capacity crowd roaring with delight, having witnessed the team capture its first title in just its second season in the league.

“Obviously it was so surreal,” said Smith, author of 11 goals in the postseason.

“The crowd, the people, the town of Sioux Lookout. It was just amazing to get that done. The team hopped the bench, everybody loved it. The crowd, I couldn’t hear anything it was just so amazing.”

Smith may have been the hero, but the workhorse was goaltender Jack Osmond, who stood like a giant between the pipes, stopping 46 of 48 shots directed his way by the Fighting Walleye, a team seeking its second straight SIJHL title.

“I feel pretty good. I can’t complain,” said Osmond, named the playoff's most valuable player.

“Going into the third period there we said win a period, win a game. It didn’t happen, but going into overtime, every Tuesday all year was battle day and that’s what we said. It’s just another Tuesday. It might be a Sunday, but we got it done.”

The Bombers and Fighting Walleye played a scoreless first period, but the hometown team broke the double goose egg with 5:24 to go in the second, Alex Lucas batting the puck past Kam River goaltender Ashton Sadauskas.

Sioux Lookout took a 1-0 lead into the third, but the Fighting Walleye weren’t about to give up their championship bout without a fight, despite being down three games to none in their best-of-seven series.

Matteo Salvatore tied the score 3:01 into the third, taking advantage of a bad clearing attempt, marching in on Osmond before switching to his backhand and depositing the puck in the net.

Less than a minute after teammate Jacob Sargent hit the post, Kam River’s Carter Poddubny put the Fighting Walleye  in front at 9:51 of the third, chipping the puck past Osmond from the slot.

The Bombers, who struggled in their own end at times, caught a break when Poddubny was sent to the box for cross checking at 12:49. Forty-four seconds later Blake Burke made them pay for the penalty, picking the puck up in the slot and firing it past Sadauskas, tying the game 2-2.

“It was just a solid effort from the guys, just commitment to the little things, just what we talked about all year long. We kind of got rewarded for just sticking with it and staying committed. It was awesome,” Johnstone said.

Capturing a title in just two seasons is a testament to the organization, he added.

“It kind of just solidifies our culture, the things we wanted to do with this program,” Johnstone said.

Next up for the Bombers is a berth at the Centennial Cup in Oakville, Ont. The tournament begins on May 9.


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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