Northern Bears set to face Saskatoon Stars in SFMAAAHL finals
The top two teams in the Saskatchewan Female Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League will battle for the league championship.
The No. 1 Saskatoon Stars and second-place Prince Albert Northern Bears begin their best-of-five playoff series on Thursday night at the Agriplace Arena for a rematch of the 2014-15 SFMAAAHL finals.
Back then Saskatoon swept P.A. to claim victory in three games. This time around the Bears, who are coming off their best offensive and defensive season in franchise history, are aiming to put up more of a fight.
“We like our chances. It’s going to be a good series. We’re rested up, we’re healthy and we can’t wait to start,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.
“We’re expecting (the Stars) to be a quick transition team. They handle the puck well, they want to have the puck on their stick, so I think it’s going to be a puck possession war for the series. For us to overcome that we definitely need to have the puck on our stick as much as possible.”
The Bears finished their semi-final series with the Melville Prairie Fire two days before the Stars dispatched the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats. Willoughby said the added time off will help his team prepare for the finals.
“We’ve experienced it the other way where you’re finishing one series off and starting the next one right away and sometimes it can be a plus but in the end rest always catches up with you if you don’t get enough of it,” he said.
“I believe we’ve had our share of rest so that’s a good thing moving forward.”
The teams split the four-game regular season series, with the Bears winning both games in Saskatoon on Oct. 22 and 23 while the Stars were victorious in P.A. on Oct. 12 and Dec. 14.
The Bears had a strong season on the road, winning in the opponent’s rink on 13 of 14 occasions. They have also won both of their away games in the playoffs. Although the Bears and Stars haven’t faced each other since mid-December, Willoughby said his team won’t be uncomfortable starting the finals in Saskatoon.
“Our wins against them came in their rink so we’re glad to be able to kick the series off there,” he said.
“It basically comes down to wanting to get out in front, make the other team react to what you’re doing out there (and) not having to react to them… We definitely want to get a good jump on them and start the series off on the right way.”
Tale of the Tape:
On March 16 the Prince Albert Northern Bears travel to Saskatoon to take on the Stars at the Agriplace Arena. The game is the first of the best-of-five SFMAAAHL finals. (Records read W-L-OTW-OTL)
Record: Prince Albert — 4-0-2-0; Saskatoon — 5-0-1-0
Last 10: Prince Albert — 4-0-2-0; Saskatoon — 5-0-1-0
Top scorers: Prince Albert — Brooke Hobson (6 points); Saskatoon — Grace Shirley (13 points)
Goals for/against: Prince Albert — 22/7; Saskatoon — 46/3
Last meeting: Anna Leschyshyn and Mackenna Parker both had two-point nights and Jordan Ivanco stopped 28 shots as the Stars beat the Northern Bears 3-0 at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 14, 2016.
(All home games at the Art Hauser Centre)
Game 1 @ Saskatoon: Thursday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
Game 2 vs. Saskatoon: Sunday, March 19 at 7 p.m.
Game 3 @ Saskatoon: Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m.
*Game 4 vs. Saskatoon: Thursday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.
*Game 5 @ Saskatoon: Saturday, March 26 at 5 p.m.