Bears hold off Hounds to stave off elimination

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Notre Dame Hounds forward Claire Nimegeers fires a shot at Prince Albert Northern Bears goalie Lexi Beuker at the Art Hauser Centre Monday night.

With their season on the line at the Art Hauser Centre Monday night, the Prince Albert Northern Bears made sure that their 2018-19 campaign wouldn’t end on home ice.

The fourth-seeded Bears controlled most of the game and held off a late push from the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Hounds as they picked up a 3-2 win in the third game of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League quarter-final series.

“The girls knew the position that they were in and they were able to get some confidence going tonight, which is something we can hopefully build on for game four in Wilcox Wednesday night,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

“I think they realized that they hadn’t brought their best effort in the first two games. They did that tonight and we’ll see what happens going forward.”

One of the biggest keys to Monday’s triumph was how the Bears were able to slow down the Hounds’ offence, as they held their opponents to 10 shots on goal through 50 minutes of play.

“That came from staying close to them and being able to control things when they had the puck,” Willoughby said.

“They were really effective with their breakout passes on Saturday and we spent the whole night trying to chase them down. We did a great job tonight of preventing them from making those plays as we were able to take their time and space away.”

Although the Hounds did get some sustained offensive pressure in the late stages of regulation, Jada Livingston’s long-range shot that brought the visitors to within one goal with six minutes left on the clock proved to be as close as they would get.

“The hardest game to win in a series is the last one and I thought we weren’t as desperate as they were tonight,” Hounds head coach Craig Perrett said.

“We picked things up a bit late after they got their third goal, but we need to play like that for the full game. Otherwise, we’ll be back here for game five on Thursday.”

Jasper Desmarais and Abby Soyko led the way for the Bears, as they each had a goal and an assist for their first points of the playoffs.

Miranda Heidt also scored for the hosts, who received a 15-save showing from Lexi Beuker.

Lyndsey Janes had the other goal for the Hounds, while Kaitlyn Ross turned in another strong performance in between the pipes as she stopped 31 shots.

The series will resume at the Duncan McNeill Arena in Wilcox at 8 p.m. Wednesday, while a fifth and deciding game, if needed, would be held at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The top-ranked Saskatoon Stars await the winner in the semifinal, while the other final four matchup will see the second-seeded Regina Rebels go up against the third-ranked Swift Current Wildcats.

Both teams punched their tickets to the next round on Sunday, as the Rebels swept aside the seventh-seeded Melville Prairie Fire and the Wildcats ended their series
against the sixth-ranked Battlefords Sharks with a game three overtime win on home ice.