A victorious conclusion

Prince Albert Northern Bears captain Brooke Hobson scored the opening goal of P.A.’s 3-2 win over Quebec’s Harfangs du Triolet at the Esso Cup on Thursday. (File photo)

Northern Bears end Esso Cup run with 3-2 win over the Harfangs du Triolet

The Prince Albert Northern Bears’ record-setting season has finally come to an end.

The Bears finished their Esso Cup run with a 3-2 win over Quebec’s Harfangs du Triolet in Morden, Man. on Thursday. The Bears ended the preliminary round with a 2-3 record, and although that ties them with Ontario’s Durham West Lightning, the fact that the Lightning beat the Bears earlier in the week awards the Ontario squad the tiebreaker.

Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said the Esso Cup was an “incredible experience” for his team, adding that it was “amazing” to go toe-to-toe with the best female Midget teams in the country.

The Bears came out swinging early in the first period in Thursday’s game, with captain Brooke Hobson taking a pass from Camryn Amundson in front of the net and beating Harfangs goalie Mélyann Daigneault to give P.A. the 1-0 lead just over one minute into the game. The Quebec side responded two minutes later on a jam play in front of the Bears net, as Triolet’s Megan Bureau-Gagnon banged the puck past Brooklyn Elek to tie the game. Later Jadyn Kushniruk restored P.A.’s one-goal lead on a three-on-one rush.

In the second period Daigneault ventured far from the Harfangs net in an attempt to play the puck, but P.A.’s Alli Soyko stripped the puck from the wandering goalie and promptly fired it into the empty net to extend the Bears lead to 3-1. Later in the period Miranda Heidt was called for body contact after checking a Triolet player into the boards. On the ensuing power play Sandrine Veillette scored on a one-timer to bring her team to within one. There was no scoring in the third period.

“Today I thought it was another good performance … It was a very physical game, today. I thought we matched their physicality so we were able to get the lead and play with the lead,” Willoughby said after the match.

This was the final game in a P.A. Bears uniform for four graduating players: captain Brooke Hobson, goalie Brooklyn Elek and forwards Ireland South and Sierra Parenteau. Willoughby said it was rewarding to see them finish their Midget careers with a win, but it was a shame they didn’t get to play “a couple more games.”

“I’m really proud of them and I hope they can take something that they learned from us and I’m sure they gained a lot of friendships in their time spent with us,” he said.

“They all have bright futures and that’s the sweet part of it. They’re looking ahead to the new chapter that starts today for them. The bitter part is that it’s ended.”

Overall Willoughby said he’s satisfied with his team’s 2016-17 season, in which the Bears set records for wins, points, goals scored and allowed.

“It was a success before we left for Morden. Whatever we did here was a bonus,” he said.

“It was absolutely a great season and something to build off of for next year.”