The Prince Albert Northern Bears were forced to contend with two wild third period comebacks en route to splitting their weekend series with the Swift Current Wildcats.
The Bears won 5-4 on Friday, but lost 6-4 on Saturday to close out their two-game road trip. Bears coach Jeff Willoughby was satisfied with the team’s overall play, but said there were a few key lessons they needed to take away.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. Every team wants to win, obviously. It’s a competitive league and Swift Current didn’t stop,” Willoughby said during an interview on Tuesday. “We have to take that as a good lesson just to take care of the details.”
The Bears came roaring out of the gate for game one on Friday, outshooting their opponents 14-2 and taking an early 1-0 lead on a goal by McKenzie Mayo. The Wildcats managed to tie things up at one before the end of the first, but the floodgates opened in the second. Goals from Miranda Heidt, Jadyn Kishniruk and Brooklyn Anderson gave Prince Albert a 4-1 lead.
Willoughby said the team didn’t make any major changes between periods. They just stuck to their game plan and were rewarded for it.
“Eventually the pucks have to go in,” he said. “It was just a matter of being consistent in the first and second period.”
However, the hometown Wildcats fought back in the third, with goals from Sara Kendall and Carissa Hogan that made it 4-3. Anderson scored her second of the game to restore Prince Albert’s two-goal lead, but Swift Current made it interesting with a late power play goal in the last minute of the period. It wouldn’t be enough, as goaltender Lexi Beuker slammed the door the rest of the way to earn the win for Prince Albert.
Saturday’s contest was a much tighter affair through the first two periods. The two teams entered the third period tied at one before treating spectators to an eight-goal outburst.
Kailey Ledoux, Abby Soyko and Jasper Desmarais all had third period goals for the Bears in a back-and-forth final frame, but it wasn’t enough to overcome five Wildcat goals, including a hat trick from Sara Kendall.
“We failed a couple of times to make sure the puck was put into (Swift Current’s) zone,” Willoughby said. “A couple of turnovers between the blue lines and they’re coming back our way. It’s just a matter of looking after the puck a little better. I think the girls learned you’ve got to play 60 minutes.”
With the weekend split, the Bears sit firmly in fourth place in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League. They’re just three points behind the third place Battlefords Sharks, who they beat in a pair of close games back in early October. The two teams will face each other again this weekend at the Art Hauser Centre.
Willoughby said the Bears will have to work hard if they hope to pass the Sharks for third place.
“Our league is so close that you’re not going to have much success if you don’t feel that you can outwork the other team,” he explained. “If we do that, I think our skill and our speed will shine through.”
The Prince Albert Northern Bears and Battlefords Sharks will meet at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22. Both games are at the Art Hauser Centre.