Bears blow out Wildcats for first Esso Cup win

Prince Albert Northern Bears forward Story Navrot skates the puck up ice during SFMAAAHL playoff action at the Art Hauser Centre. This weekend the Bears host Manitoba’s Westman Wildcats in the West Region Final. (Final photo)

The Prince Albert Northern Bears have their first win of the Esso Cup after dominating Team Atlantic, the Mid-Isle Wildcats, Tuesday afternoon.

The game was a must-win for the Bears, who came in having lost their two previous matches in the round-robin stage of the tournament.

The Bears came out strong from the opening faceoff, using their speed and size to get the puck into the attacking zone and win the battles along the boards.

They kept Mid-Isle pinned deep in their own zone for much of the first.

P.A. opened the scoring three and a half minutes into the game. A loose puck found its way to Camryn Amundson in front of the net. She shovelled the puck in on her backhand to put the Bears up 1-0. Jasper Desmarais and Kate Ball earned assists on the play.

The Bears continued to throw the puck on net and push in the offensive zone,

Their persistence paid off. With a little over five minutes to go in the first, Defenceman Hannah Koroll stole the puck off of a Wildcat attacker near her own blue line before skating between several defenders, weaving across the ice. Koroll gained the zone on a two-on-two chance, and took a shot. It was blocked, but bounced right to Jadyn Kushniruk, the trailer on the rush, who one-timed it to the back of the net.

Minutes later, the Bears struck again. After dumping the puck in, a battle ensued in the corner Amundson found the puck and threw it on net. Despite the tough angle, the puck found its way in to put P.A. up 3-0 after one. The Bears outshot the Wildcats 25-2 in the frame.

The offensive onslaught continued in the second.

About halfway through the frame, Kate Wagner took a shot from the point. It was stopped, but Sierra Parenteau grabbed the rebound and found Story Navrot wide open in front. Navrot buried the perfect pass to increase the lead to 4-0.

Continuing to press, the Bears found twine again.

With about three minutes left, Colby Donald spotted Jadyn Kushniruk up ice and attempted the stretch pass. It went off the Wildcats defender, but bounced onto Kushniruk’s stick. She skated past the surprised defender, earning a partial breakaway. She flipped the puck up over the outstretched blocker of Mid-Isle goalie Maggie Johnston for her second of the game.

After two, the Bears had a 5-0 lead, and were leading 40-7 in the shots on goal category.

In the third period, Mid-Isle finally responded.

Kushniruk took a penalty for body-checking, putting the Wildcats on the powerplay.

A battle down low led to the puck scooting out in front of the net where Madison Vincent tucked it home. Taylor Gillis earned an assist on the play.

But it was too little, too late for the Wildcats.

The Bears would score again with under four minutes to play. As a Bears powerplay expired, a weak wrist shot from the point fired by Brooke Hobson was bobbled by the goalie. Miranda Heidt poked the rebound in, increasing the lead to 6-1.

That would be the final. The Bears outshot the Wildcats 63-14. Ryan Fontaine’s 13 saves for P.A. earned her a .929 save percentage and the win, while Johnston’s valiant effort in net for Mid-Isle resulted in 57 saves and a save percentage of .905.

Next it will be a battle of the Alberts, as the Bears take on the St. Albert Raiders, who are representing the Pacific division. Game time today is 11 a.m. The game can be streamed on Hockeycanada.ca.