A new season in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) began last weekend in Alberta when the Barrhead Bombers hosted their division rival Hinton Timberwolves. At the end of the night the home crowd left the arena happy after a 6-4 Bombers victory.
It’s season two of Bombers junior hockey in Barrhead, but it’s also version two of the team. After cancelling the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19, the original Bombers team was relocated to southern Oregon where they were renamed the Rogue Valley Royals. The Royals will play out of The RRRink in Medford.
As part of the agreement with new owner Aly Virani, an expansion team would compete in the WSHL out of the Barrhead Agrena and retain the Bombers name.
With new ownership and a new head coach, Dave Hyrsky, in charge on the ice expectations are higher than a typical expansion team. Hinton finished with 34 wins and second place of the Provincial Division in 2019-20 and were to meet the Bombers in the playoffs before the sports world came to a halt. The Bombers had posted just 14 victories in their first season after relocating from Long Beach. Opening a new campaign with a victory on Friday was an important statement.
“It was an exciting game that had a lot of speed, offensive chances, good goaltending and physicality,” said Hyrsky.
Barrhead struck early when Chance Grey scored the first goal of the game just 1:47 after puck drop. Hinton however, would control most of the period finishing with nearly a 2:1 shot advantage.
The Bombers regrouped after intermission and quickly doubled their advantage when Cody Anderson scored on the powerplay tally at 4:42. Justin Mandes and Austin Davis assisted on the goal.
Two more goals in a 1:02 span had Barrhead leading 4-0 at the midway point of the period. Kayden Russell, assisted by Chad Esperance, scored first before local products Jeremy DeVries (goal scorer) and Brendan Bujold teamed up on the fourth tally. Hinton would get on the scoreboard shortly after, but it was the Bombers who held a 20-9 shot advantage in the period.
Leading 4-1 to start the third Barrhead added to that total at 10:15 with a powerplay goal by Anderson. Josh Kochan and Jeff Mamuad assisted on the goal, his second of the game.
After a Hinton 5-on-3 powerplay tally the Bombers reclaimed a four-goal advantage at 13:26 when Anderson netted his hat trick. DeVries and Bujold assisted on the play for their second point of the game making the score 6-2.
Kayden Hollett made it 6-3 with a shorthanded marker at 14:44 before a goal by Maxime Caron-Lalancette with just :08 remaining made the final score closer than it was played. Barrhead outshot the visitors 14-11 in the final frame.
18-year old goaltender Zoltan Bencsik made 29 saves to earn the victory in his junior hockey debut. Bencsik previously played for the Northwest Calgary Stamps 18U AA.
Up next for the Bombers is a rematch with the Timberwolves on Saturday night 8:30 PM at the Agrena. The next day Barrhead will play host to the another expansion side, the Edmonton Eagles. Puck drop is scheduled for 2:15 PM.
All WSHL games can be seen live on Black Dog Hockey.