On Saturday afternoon, the Prince Albert Northern Bears found out firsthand what makes the Regina Rebels the team to beat in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League season as they dropped a 9-1 affair at the Art Hauser Centre.
The 2020 Esso Cup hosts faired much better in Sunday’s rematch, but they were unable to hand the Rebels their first regulation loss of the campaign as the visitors came away with a 3-1 triumph.
“There will be those who look at the scoreboards and see two different outcomes, but I didn’t think Saturday’s game was a 9-1 type of game,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said. “We kept up with them on the shot clock and we were happy with our zone time in the first half of the game, but things just went the other way for Regina.
“We had a much better compete level for the 60 minutes on Sunday and it’s something positive that we can build off of. Regina is a great team and they are a good measuring stick for us. We need to be above what their level is as we look towards our long-term goal.”
Although the 11-12-1 Bears have only scored three goals during their five-game losing streak, the team has had a number of opportunities to find the back of the net.
That was the case on Sunday afternoon as they outshot the Rebels by a 30-28 margin and had shots from Paris Oleksyn and Rhea Peterson ring off of the iron.
“When the scoring chances stop, that’s when you’re looking to press the panic button, but that’s not the case right now,” Willoughby said. “We’re doing the rights things and we’re getting pucks on the net.
“There’s always a two or three second battle in front of the net for the puck and you’re going to get beat up in this league to get those goals. We know what it takes to score, now we just need to do it.”
Bears captain Brooklyn Anderson had the lone marker for her team on Sunday, while Dani Day made 25 saves.
The 21-0-1 Rebels were led on offence by a two-assist performance from Alexis Petford.
Neena Brick, Hanna Bailey and Sydney Pedersen also scored for the visitors, who received a 29-save showing from Payton Schlamp.
Saturday’s contest got out of hand in the middle frame as the Rebels scored four times in a span of five minutes and 29 second span to build up a 7-1 cushion.
“Everyone wants to play that game over,” Willoughby said. “We did things right when we faced them again on Sunday, so that’s a positive.”
Kailee Peppler found the back of the net for the Bears early in the second period for their lone goal of the night.
Janae Neufeld made nine saves before being pulled after 28 minutes, while Day turned aside 17 shots in the final 32 minutes.
Tavia Terry led the way for the Rebels with a goal and three assists.
Pedersen and Brick had two goals and an assist each in the triumph, which saw Lauren Focht light the lamp once and dish out two helpers.
“We had a few bounces go our way on Saturday,” Rebels head coach Mike Merk said. “Prince Albert came out hard on Sunday and wanted to prove a point after that loss, and I thought we had a really good battle against them.
“I was really happy with how we played this weekend. Our team’s really come together lately and we’re getting contributions from all over our lineup, which is huge for our success.”
Kaylee Dyer, Gwyneth Pritchard and Petford also scored for the Rebels, who received a 26-save outing from Chantel Weller.
The Bears will be back in action on Saturday and Sunday for a pair of games in Wilcox against the 11-11-2 Notre Dame Hounds, who are a point ahead of them in the race for third place in the standings.
The battle for that playoff spot will more than likely go down to the final weekend of the campaign as the 9-12-3 Saskatoon Stars and the 9-14-1 Battlefords Sharks are three and seven points back of the Hounds.
“I believe we can have third place in our control if we do things the right way,” Willoughby said.
“It would be huge for us to finish there with the way that we’ve been scrapping all year with these teams.”