Northern Bears top Melville 3-1; advance to league finals with perfect record
The Prince Albert Northern Bears are headed to the SFMAAAHL finals.
The Bears earned a ticket to the championship after sweeping the Battlefords Sharks in Round 1 and the Melville Prairie Fire in Round 2. With the top-ranked Saskatoon Stars currently leading the fifth-place Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats 2-0 in the other best-of-five semi-final series, a rematch of the 2014-15 championship could be in the cards for P.A.
“(We’ve been) getting consistent play from everybody and getting four forward lines that are really forechecking hard, defence is playing well and goalies are giving us a chance to win. Everything’s clicking and the girls are getting a little bit better every day,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.
P.A. completed the Melville sweep at home on Thursday night. Defenceman Hannah Koroll scored the game-winning goal on the power play and notched the insurance marker later in the game to lead the Bears to a 3-1 win. Koroll also made an impact in Game 2, scoring the winner in double overtime in Melville on Tuesday.
Koroll, who scored four times during the regular season, is now leading her team in postseason goals with four in just six games played.
“She’s always been a player that throws lots of pucks at the net and I’m glad to see that the pucks are starting to go in for her,” Willoughby said.
“Screens or deflections, she puts that puck on net and it’s big points from the back end. Any time you can get points from the back end it’s huge.”
Abby Soyko was first on the board in Game 3, knocking home a Brooke Hobson point shot on the power play to put the Bears up 1-0 in the first period. Koroll scored with the man advantage just over two minutes later. Willoughby said the power play is an area in which he’d like to see more improvement.
“We kind of wanted to focus on that. If we could get two power play goals a game it can alleviate a little bit of pressure for us to score five-on-five and that happened tonight,” he said, adding that after outshooting Melville 54-13 in the match he’s hoping to see better play at full-strength as well.
“We’d still like to see a little bit more five-on-five luck… We’d like to see six or seven go in out of 50-some shots, so we’ll keep working towards it.”
Not long after the Bears climbed to a 2-0 lead Melville responded. A defensive breakdown by the Bears led to a two-on-zero rush for the Fire. Regan Nichol moved in on P.A. netminder Brooklyn Elek unchallenged and passed the puck to teammate Megan Leblanc who found the back of the net.
Mid-way through the third period Koroll scored her second goal of the night to secure the win for P.A.
Willoughby said making it to the finals in the fewest possible games will benefit the team, as a long postseason can take a toll on players’ bodies.
“If you can do it in six it’s just that much better,” he said.
“You can get more rest and think about who you’re playing a little bit more.”
Prince Albert 3, Melville 1
Northern Bears win best-of-five series 3-0
- Prince Albert, Ab. Soyko 2 (Hobson, Heidt) 6:04 (pp)
- Prince Albert, Koroll 3 (Hobson, Navrot) 8:12 (pp)
- Melville, Nichol 1 (Leblanc) 11:48
- Prince Albert, Koroll 4 (unassisted) 9:20
Goalies: Prince Albert – Brooklyn Elek, 12 saves (W, 3-0-0); Melville – Ashlyn Taillon, 51 saves (L, 3-3-0).
Stars of the Game: 1. Hannah Koroll; 2. Megan Leblanc; 3. Brooke Hobson.