Northern Bears return to action with weekend series against Lloydminster

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Claudia Lammers flies by the Prince Albert Northern Bears bench after scoring a goal on Sunday during a game against the Lloydminster Steelers.

Esso Cup hosts taking part in Calgary Firestarter tournament this weekend

As the Prince Albert Northern Bears gear up for a new campaign, one of their biggest early season goals is to build up their team chemistry.

The 2022 Esso Cup hosts started that process this past weekend as they played the Lloydminster Steelers in a home-and-home series.

“I think we were all pretty anxious to have these games and to finally have a starting point for our season, especially for us as a staff so that we can reflect and look back on some actual games,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

“It takes some time for the players to get used to each other and I thought we saw them get better over the course of both games.”

Saturday’s matchup in Lloydminster and Sunday’s contest at the Art Hauser Centre were the first for the Bears since Nov. 22, 2020, when they won a wild 9-5 road contest against the Battlefords Sharks.

“Honestly, it was a great feeling to be back playing with the girls,” Bears forward Jasmine Kohl said. “I really missed being with them and also being in that mindset of getting ready for games through our practices.

“At times last year it felt like we were just practicing for nothing with no games being played, but now we’re back doing what we love to do.”

After dropping a 4-2 contest to the Steelers on Saturday, the Bears bounced back with an impressive 7-1 result on Sunday.

Kelsey Ledoux led the way in the rematch with three assists, while Brooklin Fry had a pair of goals and Taylor Leitch dished out two helpers.

“It’s been a long time since we have played a game so it was great to be back out on the ice,” Leitch said. “It was a little nerve-wracking during the opening shifts on Saturday, especially with that being our first game in almost a year, but I think we all got back into the swing of things right away.

“We had a lot of confidence in moving the puck in our second game with Lloydminster and we were playing pretty fast out there, which allowed us to have a good day on offence.”

Erin Kirkland, Claudia Lammers, Bree Purcell, Jacquelyne Chief and Kohl also scored on Sunday, while Rayna Fraklin replied for the Steelers.

The Bears got goals from Kohl and Kassie Ferster in Lloydminster on Saturday.

Scoring details for the Steelers were not available.

With their first two pre-season games out of the way, the Bears will now travel to Calgary this week for the Firestarter tournament, which starts on Thursday and runs until Saturday.

Their Pool A slate will begin on Thursday with games against the host Calgary Fire and the Northern Capitals from Prince George, before a meeting with the Sharks on Friday.

“I think facing those different teams, especially those that aren’t in our league, will push us to be better when our regular season starts in October and be that top team that we want to be,” Kohl said.

The Bears will be traveling to Swift Current for a Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League showcase event on Oct. 2 and 3 before opening up their regular season on Oct. 9 with a road game against the Regina Rebels.

They will return to the Art Hauser Centre on Oct. 21 for a 7 p.m. meeting with the Sharks.

Pre-Season Scores

  • Wednesday, Sept. 8
  • Regina 6 Weyburn 1 (Megan Hayhurst – Two Goals and One Assist)

Monday, Sept. 13

  • Regina 4 Weyburn 0 (Payton Schlamp – 24 Saves)

Pre-Season Schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 22

  • Notre Dame vs. Swift Current – 7:30 p.m. (Gull Lake)

Thursday, Sept. 30

  • Swift Current vs. Notre Dame – 8 p.m.