Bears take two out of three from Wildcats in weekend series

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Northern Bears and the Swift Current Wildcats battled for position in front of Wildcats netminder Amaya Giraudier at the Art Hauser Centre Sunday afternoon.

Although they couldn’t come away with a clean sweep of their three-game series with the Swift Current Wildcats, there were a lot of positives for the Prince Albert Northern Bears in their first Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League contests since Christmas.

“We made quite a few strides this weekend, especially when you look at where we were a month ago,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

“When you look at the simple parts of the game, such as our forecheck and taking away our opponents’ time and space, I think we’re on the right track.”

The 2020 Esso Cup hosts picked up 5-4 and 3-2 wins on Friday and Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre, but were unable to get on the scoreboard in a 3-0 affair Sunday.

After holding off a late rally by the Wildcats on Friday, the Bears scored three unanswered goals in Saturday’s rematch, which was decided on a goal by captain Brooklyn Anderson with 3:31 to go in regulation.

“Our forecheck was really good this weekend and I was really proud of how the girls did in that part of the game, especially as we were able to limit Swift Current’s shots,” Willoughby said.

“Our game starts with that. If we don’t have our forecheck working, the other parts of our game are going to struggle.”

Jasper Desmarais led the way for the Bears on offence with a goal and an assist.

Paris Oleksyn also scored and Dani Day stopped 13 shots.

Gracie Gorget and Baylee Kirwan countered for the Wildcats, who received a 30-save showing from Cheyenne Jamieson.

The Bears fired 34 shots on net during Sunday’s encounter, but they were unable to solve Amaya Giraudier as she picked up her second shutout of the season.

“She’s been good for us all year,” Wildcats head coach Terry Pavely said. “We had a bit of a slow start where Prince Albert put a lot of pressure on us, but she made some big saves to get us through that first period.

“I thought we played really well all weekend, especially against a good team like the Bears. You don’t like to lose, but you know that it can go either way when you have so many games against a strong team.”

Ashlee Wolfe scored twice for the 12-3 Wildcats, who also got a goal from Madison Garrett.

Day turned aside 21 shots for the hosts.

The 11-8-1 Bears, who are only three points back of a Wildcats side that has five games in hand on them in the race for second in the league standings, are off until Saturday, Jan. 25 when they’ll head down to Swift Current for a two-game weekend series.

“One of the things that we will be working on in practice is owning the area in front of both nets,” Willoughby said. “It’s usually 50/50 down there and whoever wins those battles is going to end up winning the close games.”

The Bears will return to the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday, Feb. 8 for a 1 p.m. contest with the league-leading Regina Rebels.