Northern Bears play in Shellbrook and Pinehouse for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan
The Prince Albert Northern Bears will be looking for a return to the win column this weekend as the team takes on the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats.
The teams will play twice: On Saturday at the Shellbrook Skating Rink and on Sunday at the Pinehouse Arena as part of the Hockey Day in Saskatchewan festivities. This is the first time the teams have faced off since late November. The teams’ four-game season series is currently 2-0 in favour of P.A.
“We had quite a bit of success down there, I think we managed to score about 12 gaols in a couple games, so I think we want to remember what we did right down there and use our speed again and find the net and really pressure them,” Northern Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.
These are the last two games away from the Art Hauser Centre for the bears this season, although P.A. will technically be the “home” side. The Bears have been playing well in out-of-town rinks this year. P.A. only has four losses this season and only one has come on the road.
“We’ve had quite a bit of success on the road … we don’t mind having that ‘away from home’ feeling to play hockey in,” Willoughby said.
“The girls are focussed when they go into another rink to play and they know that they’re in a battle.”
The bears are aiming to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to the Melville Prairie Fire last weekend. Despite outshooting Melville 35-18 the Bears were unable to beat goalie Ashlyn Taillon and were handed their second shutout loss of the year.
The Bears are facing a Swift Current quad that is winless in their last four games, The Wildcats were outscored 22-5 in a quartet of home and away matches against the Saskatoon Stars.
Scoring has been unbalanced for the Wildcats, as 55 of their 66 goals coming from only three players, including league scoring leader Taylor Lind, who has 25 goals and 40 points in 22 games played.
The Bears, on the other hand, have been scoring by committee, with more than twice as many players in the double digits in points compared with Swift Current.
“We try to make sure we know who we’re up against, who we’re playing, but I think the biggest focus is always us,” Willoughby said.
“We realize that Swift Current has a line that can score as good as anyone else in the league and we have to balance that with everyone else scoring.”
The Bears will be benefiting from the return of veteran defender Brooke Hobson, who was in the Czech Republic earlier this month playing for Team Canada at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation U18 World Women’s Championship. She scored the first international goal of her career in a semifinal match against Sweden and ultimately won a silver medal.
Willoughby said Hobson’s exposure to the faster international game should give her “more time on her hands” when she comes back to the SFMAAAHL.
“The game’s probably so quick for her over there,” he said.
“If she can gain a half-a-second here or there it’s just going to be to her advantage and she’s going to lead by example and hopefully the other girls pick up on what she’s doing.”
Puck drop in Shellbrook on Saturday is at 1 p.m. Sunday’s match begins at 1 p.m. as well.
Tale of the Tape
On Jan. 21 the Prince Albert Northern Bears travel to Shellbrook to take on the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at the Shellbrook Skating Rink. That match is part of Hockey Day in Saskatchewan. (Records read W-L-OTW-OTL)
Record: Prince Albert — 12-4-3-0; Swift Current — 7-9-0-6
Last 10: Prince Albert — 8-2-0-0; Swift Current — 2-5-0-3
Top scorers: Prince Albert — Abby Soyko (21 points); Swift Current — Taylor Lind (40 points)
Goals for/against: Prince Albert — 80/38; Swift Current — 66/80
Last meeting: Brooke Hobson scored twice and earned an assist to help lead the Northern Bears to a 7-2 win over the Diamond Energy Wildcats at Fairview Arena on Nov. 20, 2016.