Bears return to win column with weekend sweep of Stars

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Northern Bears surround Kailey Ledoux after she found the back of the net on Sunday afternoon in Saskatoon.

It was a successful return to the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League circuit for the Prince Albert Northern Bears over the weekend.

After losing five straight games before their trip to the Mandi Schwartz Memorial Tournament earlier this month, the 2020 Esso Cup hosts got back into the win column with 4-1 and 3-1 triumphs over the Saskatoon Stars at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon.

“I felt like we played a lot better in Sunday’s 3-1 game, even though it was closer than Saturday’s final score,” Bears forward Jasper Desmarais said.

“We were a lot less scrambled when it came to our play. We buried down and got pucks deep, plus we played a total team game.”

The Bears, who are in third place in the SFMAAHL standings with a 9-6 record, controlled the puck for most of the contest on Sunday afternoon as they outshot the Stars by a 41-24 margin.

“The girls played more like a team today,” said Bears assistant coach Gord Hobson, who was filling in behind the bench for a suspended Jeff Willoughby. “They all came to play and all four lines bought in to what we were doing.

“When you look at what we’re trying to build here, we want to be a team where all 20 girls are tough to play against.”

Paris Oleksyn led the way on Sunday with a goal and an assist, while Desmarais and Kailey Ledoux also scored and Dani Day made 23 saves.

Anica Gauthier had the only goal for the 5-9-2-0 Stars, who received a 38-save performance from Arden Kliewer.

Saturday’s contest was decided in only a few shifts as the Bears raced out to a 3-0 lead after six minutes and 45 seconds of play.

“We were just getting pucks on net and driving the net hard, which allowed us to generate a lot of rebounds in the first period, Desmarais said.

“I think we caught them sleeping a little bit early on and I’m sure there’s a couple of goal that they would want back,” Hobson added. “Getting up by four was key though as the game was a lot even after that.”

Jesse Herner had a pair of goals and an assist for the visitors, while Ledoux dished out a pair of helpers.

The Bears also got offensive contributions from Oleksyn, Emma Tremblay and Taylor Leitch, in addition to a 22-save showing from Janae Neufeld.

Neufeld’s shutout bid was spoiled early in the third period as Sydney Mercer scored on the power play.

Kaitlyn Cadrain made six on 10 shots in the opening frame for the hosts, while Kliewer stopped all 23 shots she faces in the final 40 minutes.

Next up for the Bears is a Thursday evening trip to the Battleford Arena to face the 6-9 Battlefords Sharks.

They will then host the 11-0-1 Regina Rebels, who hold a one-point lead on the Swift Current Wildcats for first place in the league table, at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre.