Bears open season with overtime triumph

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald McKenzie Mayo celebrates with her Prince Albert Northern Bears teammate Brooklyn Anderson after the blueliner scored the overtime winning goal at the Art Hauser Centre Sunday.

While the Prince Albert Northern Bears are entering this season with a target on their back as the hosts for the 2020 Esso Cup, the standard bearers in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League are still the Saskatoon Stars.

The Bears made a big statement to the winners of the last two league championships at the Art Hauser Centre Sunday as they came with a 4-3 overtime victory in their opening game of the 2019-20 campaign.

“They have always been the top team so it’s a really good feeling to get a win against them right off the bat,” Bears blueliner McKenzie Mayo said.

“We didn’t give up when we fell behind to them and I think that says a lot about our team. It’s a great group of girls both on and off the ice.”

Mayo was the hero on Sunday as her long-range shot beat Stars netminder Arden Kliewer just 29 seconds into the extra frame.

“I knew that I had an opportunity on the rush and I wasn’t stopping my feet as soon as I saw that opening,” Mayo said. “It’s hard for me to explain the feeling of what it’s like to score that goal.”

Mayo had a goal and an assist in the victory, which saw Jasper Desmarais score twice and two-assist performances for Brooklyn Anderson and Kailee Peppler.

Dani Day turned aside 19 shots for the hosts, while Lauren Willoughby tipped home an attempt from the point from Mayo for her first career Midget AAA goal.

“She was a bit snake bitten last year so it was great to see Lauren get that first goal, especially on a nice deflection like that,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

“I thought we did better in some areas of our game today, especially after our exhibition game on Saturday (where the Bears lost a 3-1 contest to the host Lloydminster Steelers). We’re happy with the effort and we’re going in the right direction.”

Emily Holmes, Bridget Rezansoff and Sydney Mercier all scored for the Stars, who received a 28-save performance from Kliewer.

“I thought we were a little streaky at times today, but that’s going to happen when you are starting the season with a new-look team,” Stars head coach Robin Ulrich said.

“There’s lots of room to grow for us and we’ve come a long way since the first day of our fall camp.”

The Bears will be back action this weekend as they host the Weyburn Gold Wings on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre