Bears pull late-game heroics in double-OT win vs. Hounds

Prince Albert Northern Bears goalie Ryan Fontaine keeps her eye on the puck while her teammate Colby Donald (17) checks Notre Dame Hounds forward Raine Smith (9) during the teams' SFMAAAHL semifinal playoff game from P.A. on March 14, 2018. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Northern Bears needed more than 80 minutes of playing time, but they did it.

The female Midget AAA hockey club beat the Notre Dame Hounds 3-2 in double overtime Wednesday night to take a 2-1 series lead in the teams’ best-of-five semifinal playoff round.

Kate Ball, courtesy of line-mate Camryn Amundson, netted the game-winner at 11:39 of the second overtime period.

“We got on a two-on-one, and the (defenceman) slid, and Cam put the puck around her and got it to me, and I shot,” a smiling Ball said after the game. “I love my line-mate Cam, because she made an amazing pass to me, so I’m just really thankful that she did that.”

The Northern Bears pulled off the feat, despite a lights-out performance from Notre Dame goalie Kaitlyn Ross. Through 81:39 of game time, she stopped 47 of 50 Bears’ shots that she faced.

The latter stages of the game, and especially the first and second overtime periods, were tight, back-and-forth affairs that could have gone either way. Ross kept the Hounds in it with several key saves, while Bears defencemen Hannah Koroll, Tobi Fontaine and Kailee Peppler helped control the play in their zone.

“I’m really proud of my team and myself. I think we worked really hard and we earned it, so I’m just really proud of my teammates,” Ball said of the win.

P.A. head coach Jeff Willoughby agreed.

“We’re happy with the effort; to come back from 2-1 just to tie it, and to continue the effort into overtime is just a huge boost for us,” he said. “Lots of shots on net finally, and a lot of good traffic. We had some good rebounds, some second and third shots.”

The teams skated to a 1-1 tie after the opening period, with scores from the Hounds’ Raine Smith and the Bears’ Brooklyn Anderson. Willoughby spoke highly of his team’s effort in the frame.

But the Hounds came out to start the second period in a dominant position. Notre Dame doubled down and stuck to its systematic, box-out style of play, especially in its defensive zone and the neutral zone. The Hounds defencemen also helped steer away Bears’ rebounds and skaters from Ross’ crease.

At 14:59, alternate captain Jenna MacLean beat Bears goalie Ryan Fontaine to go up 2-1; MacLean sent a high wrist shot from the high slot on Fontaine, who was screened by a group of skaters in front of her crease and didn’t see it go in.

Notre Dame Hounds forward Raine Smith (9) celebrates after scoring a first-period goal against the Prince Albert Northern Bears during the teams’ SFMAAAHL semifinal playoff game from P.A. on March 14, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Bears kept pressing, but to no avail.

The third period opened with Prince Albert having the extra edge and jump in its game, but it was a grind. Despite firing more than 10 shots on Ross through the frame’s first 18 minutes, the Bears couldn’t convert a single one.

Koroll changed that at 18:12: She blasted a point shot on net, and a waiting Amundson made a deft tip on the puck to get it past Ross for the 2-2 tie.

The Hounds and the Bears skated to a scoreless first overtime period, played for 10 minutes; after an intermission, they commenced the second extra period, slated for 20 minutes, where Ball and Amundson delivered the Bears the win.

“We work really good together,” Ball said. “She’s always grinding out and trying her best, so it makes my job a lot easier. I’m just really proud of her and my line-mates.”

The teams are off from play on Thursday and Friday. They’re set to play game 4 of the semifinal series on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Wilcox, at Notre Dame’s Duncan McNeill arena.

If the Bears win the game, they’ll win the series and advance to the league finals. If the Hounds win, they’ll force a fifth and deciding game which is slated for Sunday at 7 p.m. in Prince Albert at the Art Hauser Centre.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Willoughby said there’s one thing he wants to see the Bears change.

“We want to see if we can make (Notre Dame) come back from one goal down; I’d like to play ahead.”

Ryan Fontaine made 19 saves on the 21 shots she faced on Wednesday.

Curiously, despite Ross’ performance and her 0.94 save percentage in the game, she was not awarded a first, second or third game star.