Northern Bears outshoot Sharks 39-9, win in overtime to lead playoff series 1-0
The game may have been longer than expected, and closer than expected, but the Prince Albert Northern Bears defeated the Battlefords Sharks 2-1 in overtime to take Game 1 of the teams’ SFMAAAHL quarterfinal series.
“We got the win in probably the most difficult way we could possibly find one. But really, at the end of the day, we got what we wanted,” Bears coach Jeff Willoughby said.
“We’ve just got to make these games a little bit easier on ourselves and we need to take advantage of our hard work. I’m not sure how many breakaways we missed, two-on-ones, but they can bite you if you don’t take advantage of it.”
Before the opening faceoff league awards were handed out to three Bears players. Camryn Amundson was named Most Sportsmanlike Player, Brooke Hobson was awarded Top Defenceman honours and was named to the First All-Star Team and Abby Soyko was named to the Second All-Star Team.
While it was the Bears taking home the hardware, the standout player of the match was Battlefords goalie Chantel Weller, who stopped 37 shots and blanked the Bears on five power play attempts to keep the game nail-bitingly close. At the end of the night the Bears outshot the Sharks 39-9. Weller faced 18 shots alone in the game’s scoreless first period.
“She played a hell of a game,” Willoughby said.
It would take until the half-way point of the second period for the Sharks to break the ice, with forward Ali Aitken beating P.A. netminder Ryan Fontaine on the power play on Battlefords’ fourth shot on net.
Weller was unbeatable, shutting the door on every Bears attempt until around the seven-minute mark of the third period, when Soyko chipped home a Miranda Heidt rebound to tie the score. The Bears continued to pile on the pressure, forcing Weller to turn away a number of two-on-one and breakaway attempts, including what looked like a guaranteed scoring opportunity for Soyko, who was stopped on the goal line. The save came with two minutes remaining in regulation and garnered Heller helmet pats from her teammates and a few words from Soyko as well.
With five seconds to go in the game P.A.’s Jasper Desmarais chipped the puck high on Weller, and while the goalie got a piece of it with her arm the puck dribbled over her shoulder and into the net. The goal wouldn’t count, however, as the official had already blown the play dead.
“The ref said he just blew the whistle inadvertently, the puck was loose and just a reaction from him,” Willoughby said.
The game then went to overtime, where at the 2:41 point the Bears would storm the Sharks net. Weller appeared to stop the play and sit on the puck, when it reality it was loose behind her back. Bears defender Jordan Ashe swept the free puck into the net to win Game 1 for her team.
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 3:45 p.m. at the Battleford Arena.
Prince Albert 2, Battlefords 1 (OT)
Northern Bears lead best-of-five series 1-0.
- Battlefords, Aitken 1 (Roach, Tupper) 10:31 (pp)
- Prince Albert, Ab. Soyko 1 (Heidt, Kushniruk) 6:37
- Prince Albert, Ashe 1 (unassisted) 2:41
Goalies: Prince Albert – Ryan Fontaine, 8 saves (W, 1-0-0); Battlefords – Chantel Weller, 37 saves (L, 0-1-0).
Stars of the Game: 1. Hannah Koroll; 2. Chantel Weller; 3. Jordan Ashe