The Prince Albert Northern Bears treated fans to an offensive explosion at the Art Hauser Centre on Wednesday, and picked up their first win of the season in the process.
The Bears and league-leading Battlefords Sharks combined for 12 goals, including seven in the third period, during a wild 60 minutes of high-scoring hockey. Bears coach Steve Young said he was glad to see the team rebound after a pair of tough losses in Regina last weekend.
“I thought we came out with some confidence,” Young said afterwards. “I think it was important, after the four games that we had played, that we still play with confidence. I thought we still played in spurts tonight, but there were a lot of positives as well.”
Captain Julia Cey led the way with a hat trick for the Bears. Marly Dumanski, Kinley Brassard, Elizabeth Udell, and Hannah Guttormson chipped in with one goal each, while Annika Neufeldt made 17 saves to get the win.
“I thought it was a full team effort,” Cey said. “We had a bit of a rough start to the season, and I think we just came together and really showed what we could do.”
Cey was one of five Bears players to record three points on the night. Young said it was great to see the Bears’ captain rewarded for her efforts.
“Julia’s been someone who’s worked very hard,” he said. “She’s (committed to) going to the University of Prince Edward Island this year and well-deserving of that, but she hasn’t just sat back and been satisfied. She keeps working. That’s a credit to her and that’s why she’s our captain.”
“It was exciting, definitely, my first hat trick in all three years (with the Bears),” Cey added. “I thought my line mates really helped me out on all those (goals) so I’ve got to be grateful for the players I’m playing with.”
While the Bears were happy to get their first win of the season, those three points didn’t come easy. Battlefords roared back from 3-0 and 7-3 deficits to keep the game close. Young said the Bears need to communicate better to avoid the defensive breakdowns that led to three Sharks third period goals.
“We’ve got to talk a lot more in our zone and sort things out,” he said. “I think, at the same time, we can’t let our foot off the gas. Just because we score doesn’t mean we’ve mastered the game. It’s important that we’re focused for the next shift.”
Prince Albert opened the scoring just over four minutes into the first period when a Hannah Guttormson point shot took a deflection in front of the net and past Sharks goaltender Cypress Classen to make it 1-0.
The Bears extended their lead on the power play near the end of the period. Elizabeth Udell took a cross-ice pass from Addison Davidge and beat Classen with a wrist shot over the shoulder to make it 2-0.
Prince Albert made it 3-0 near the midway mark of the second on Cey’s first of the night. The Bears’ captain pounced on a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble at 11:05.
The Sharks started their comeback in the latter half of the period. Anneka Aspaas made it 3-1 on a great individual rush at 7:49, and Maggie Rauckman made it 3-2 after dangling past a Bears defender and beating Neufeldt glove side on a breakaway at 2:30.
The Bears appeared to put the game away early in the third when Cey scored her second and third goals of the night, the first coming at 18:39 and the second on the power play at 13:44.
The Sharks responded with a goal of their own just 32 seconds after Cey’s third tally to make it 5-3. The two teams then combined for three goals in 26 seconds during a flurry of action.
Prince Albert’s Brassard started the scoring at 6:42, followed by Dumanski at 6:32. Tristan Todosichuk then responded for the Sharks at 6:16 to make it 7-4.
Battlefords added another with 1:37 to play when Sarah McNabb beat Neufeldt high glove side on a 2-on-1, but that was as close as the visitors got.
Prince Albert outshot Battlefords 34-22 on the evening and went two for seven on the powerplay. Battlefords scored no goals on their four power play chances. Classen made 27 saves for the Sharks in a losing cause.
The 7-5 win moves Prince Albert into fifth place in the SFU18AAAHL standings. They’re off until Saturday when they travel to Swift Current for a pair of games with the Wildcats. Despite the loss, Battlefords remains on top of the standings, one point ahead of the Regina Rebels, who host the Weyburn Gold Wings at the Co-Operators Centre on Thursday night.