The Saskatoon Stars won this year’s female Midget AAA Hockey League championship after beating the Prince Albert Northern Bears 2-1 Tuesday night to win and sweep the best-of-five series three games to none.
“They’re a really good team and a good competition for us,” Northern Bears captain Hannah Koroll said of the Stars.
Over the course of the series, Tuesday’s game was the closest; The Stars won Games 1 and 2 by two goals – 5-3 and 4-2, respectively.
In the third game, all of the gaols were scored in the opening period.
“Throughout the entire game, the play was back and forth the whole time. And both teams had a lot of possession over the whole game,” she said.
Bears forward Kate Ball opened the game’s scoring, after netting a power play goal at 3:25 in the first period.
After that, the Stars were forced to work for most of the remainder of the period to get on the scoreboard: Kaitlin Jockims tied the game at 17:02, and then team captain Mackenna Parker put the Stars up 2-1 with 12 seconds to go in the period.
It proved to be the game-winner for Saskatoon. Goalies Arden Kliewer and Ryan Fontaine stopped the remaining shots they faced, 25 total for Kliewer and 33 total for Fontaine.
Parker described how Jockims’ goal was an instigator for her to get on the scoreboard.
“I was pretty excited and ready to go, because (she) had just scored to tie it up, because the Bears were beating us at one point.
“So I was skating down the right side of the ice; I got a pass from Anna Leschyshyn, and then I kind of went right and then brought it to my backhand across the defenceman; and I just tapped it five-hole on Fontaine,” Parker explained.
The lack of scoring in the second and third periods didn’t mean the game wasn’t tense, Koroll explained. “As the game gets closer to the end, you get more stressed out and it becomes a tighter situation when you’re down a goal, and for them being up a goal.”
She said the Stars had a strong defensive game, too.
“They apply a lot of pressure in their defensive zone, and they have a lot of set plays that really work well for them. Their whole team comes back and helps out.”
Parker had similar comments, highlighting her team’s work ethic in the game. “We just wanted it that bad this year. We just really wanted to beat P.A., because they’re really hard to beat and they got us last year.”
The Bears swept the Stars three games to none in last year’s league final.
Parker said that once the game clock read 0:00 at the end of the third period, “It was so exciting, especially for us girls that have been on the team for four years. We wanted to go out with a bang, and that’s exactly what we did. It was such a great feeling.”
The Stars captain said last year’s series sweep at the hands of the Bears was extra motivation for her team this year.
Asked about her thoughts if the Bears weren’t as driven or hungry as the Stars, Koroll said, “I don’t know if I can counter that. Like, I’d say the Stars wanted that more than us this year, considering we always got them last year.
“I think that we didn’t quite have the fire in our bellies in this series that we did last season. We definitely wanted it, but we just seemed different this year.”
On the positive side, the P.A. captain spoke highly of her team reaching the league final.
Equally important, she said, was how the crop of Bears players bonded throughout the year.
“I can’t think of a better friend off the team than all the girls that are on the team, and I think everyone feels the same way about that. It’s just such a good dynamic with this group of girls.”
Koroll said she’s excited to see what the team’s five rookies from this season will do next season with the Bears. That group includes Kailee Peppler, Rhea Peterson, Paris Oleksyn, Haley Kicia and Lexi Beuker.
Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby was unavailable for comment.
The Stars now advance to compete in the Esso Cup West Regional series against the Eastman Selects, who represent Manitoba. The teams will play their best-of-five series in Steinbach, Man., starting on April 6.
The winner of the series earns a berth in the national Esso Cup in Bridgewater, N.S.