Thanks to a multi-point game from Abby Soyko and a 17-save performance from rookie goaltender Lexi Beuker, the Prince Albert Northern Bears kept their perfect record in tact over the weekend, winning back-to-back games against the Swift Current Energy Wildcats.
On Saturday afternoon the Bears beat the Wildcats 3-2 in a tight game where the shots were 26-25 in Swift Current’s favour. The next day the Bears doubled their goal count, winning 6-2 and outshooting the visiting side 31-19.
Sunday’s game saw forward Abby Soyko earn three points on 2 goals and one assist. Her second period score at 3:09 wound up being the winner for her team, which now sits in second place in the women’s Midget AAA league at 4-0, six points behind Saskatoon.
“I think we played better than we have been in the past. Each game we keep getting better and better,” Bears captain Hannah Koroll said after the win.
She assisted on two goals in the Sunday game, including scores from Jasper Desmarais and Camryn Amundson, both of whom play on the Bears’ top line, which includes Kate Ball. The trio combined for five points on Saturday and three points on Sunday.
Desmarais’ goal came courtesy an assertive, cross-ice pass from Koroll at the point.
“I love playing with that line,” Koroll said, noting they make it easier on the defensive unit. “We just have more confidence with them when we know they’re on the ice, there to support us.”
Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said he’s seen improvement in the line from last year coming into this season, evident in the girls’ scoring.
“They’re burying more chances already this early. Last year they had lots of chances, but maybe they were (scoring) a point per game; and now they seem to be contributing two or three goals a game,” he said.
Comparing the two games, Koroll said Sunday’s was the better one. “We executed our shots better this game and obviously executed getting in the net.”
Entering the teams’ Sunday game, Beuker got her second start of the season.
The first-year goalie noted the quick pace of Midget-level hockey: “The tempo that’s higher makes it a lot more challenging for me to get better,” she said. “But I like playing at a faster pace, so I can show all my skills that I think I have.”
Beuker stopped 17 of the 19 shots she faced on Sunday; she stopped 20 of 22 shots in her first start – a win – against the Battlefords Sharks a week prior.
She complimented her teammates’ efforts in keeping shooting lanes open for her to see the puck on Sunday.
“For the defence, their ability to get the players out of the front of the net was incredible, and I really thanked them for that.
“And the forwards, when they block shots and get the puck out of our zone really fast, that was really good,” she said.
Willoughby noted how the netminder kept his team in the game with some key saves during and after the second period.
After a dominant Bears’ first period, Swift Current clawed its way back in the second, reducing a three-goal deficit to one goal. The Wildcats outshot their opponents 11-7 in the frame and had a better handle on puck possession.
Despite giving up two goals in the latter half of the frame, Beuker held steady.
“I think the biggest thing is keeping it 3-2 and not letting them tie it up. Swift had a couple good chances when it was 3-2, and she stood tall and it’s a big confidence-boost for her,” Willoughby said.
The Bears capitalized on their goalie’s play, scoring three more goals in the third period for the win.
“Today we had another good lead. They were able to find a couple answers and make the game close again. I thought the third was probably our best period of the weekend. It was a good way to cap off the weekend,” Willoughby said.
Desmarais, Ball and Kassidy Kicia scored for the Bears on Saturday, while Sunday’s goals came by way of Soyko (2), Jordan Ashe (2), Desmarais and Amundson.
The Bears’ next games are a back-to-back set on the road in Saskatoon against the Stars (6-0) on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22.