Northern Bears early season struggles continue

Daily Herald f Prince Albert Northern Bears assistant coach Curtis Olsen goes over a drill during the team’s prospect camp at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Road trips haven’t been kind to the Prince Albert Northern Bears so far this season.

Bears are off to their worst start to a season (0-4-0-0) since 2011 with an 0-5-1-0 record. So far this season, the Bears have played all of their games on the road, losing against Regina twice, as well as the Battlefords and Saskatoon, including a 3-2 loss to the Stars on Sunday.

It looked promising for the Bears to enter the win column for the first time this season when Sophia Zuck opened the scoring on the powerplay on the road against the Stars 5:29 into the game. However just 27 seconds later, Halle Helperl tied it for the Stars. They would trade goals again in the second period, before Peyton Gabruck would score the eventual game winner with just over a minute to go in the third.

The Bears will try to bounce back on Thursday night, when they will take on the Battlefords Sharks in Prince Albert’s first home game of the season. The Bears went 8-6 at home in their last full season in 2019-20, and will try to build on their home success that they’ve had in years past against the Sharks.

The Bears have not lost a home game to the Battlefords since the 2012-13 season, when they lost a 3-2 game, which was decided by a shootout. Since then, Prince Albert has gone an impressive 22-0 against the Sharks in games played at both the Art Hauser Centre and Kinsmen Arena. That can create either hope for a Bears team that needs anything they can get for a win, or increased pressure, something this team has been under since game number one.

Keys to victory

For the Bears to win this weekend, the biggest key is to shut down the Sharks offence. Since the offence has been silenced so far to start the season, Prince Albert will need to rely on their defenceman and goalies to keep pucks out of their net. With much of the games so far being finished in their end of the ice, they will have to lock down on defence and try to create rush chances from there. In Sunday’s loss to the Stars, Saskatoon scored the game winning goal with less than two minutes left in regulation. Prince Albert’s last goal was scored midway through the second period.

Another key for the Bears is to keep throwing shots on goal. On Sunday they mustered 31 shots on goal in the loss. It’s not for a lack of effort that the Bears are losing, more about not being able to create as many chances in transition. More chances on the rush means more chances for points to get put on the board, and Prince Albert will look to transition defence into offence and make higher quality chances for themselves on Thursday.

Puck drop for the Bears home opener against the Sharks on Thursday is at 7pm.