Prince Albert forward Abby Soyko makes her way past Melville defender Hannah Pennell while teammate Story Navrot looks on during the first period of the Northern Bears’ 2-0 victory over the Prairie Fire at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday afternoon. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

Northern Bears blank Prairie Fire 2-0; lead semi-final series 1-0

The Prince Albert Northern Bears have jumped out to a 1-0 lead in their SFMAAAHL best-of-five semi-final series against the Melville Prairie Fire.

Brooklyn Elek stopped 28 shots to pick up her second shutout in her second playoff game as the Bears defeated the Prairie Fire 2-0 at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re happy with being able to start at home, the series, it makes a big difference,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

“It’s probably the most shots we’ve faced against in quite some time and they get a lot of offence from their blue line and the shots that go through, they’re dangerous if they don’t get stopped. So that’s probably the key for us: to stop those shots from the blue line. Make them find a different play.”

Jadyn Kushniruk put the home team ahead early in the game, firing the puck past Melville goalie Ashlyn Taillon on the rush. It was Kushniruk’s first goal of the postseason.

Both goalies had strong performances at their respective ends of the ice. Taillon shut the door on eight Bears power play attempts, including a two-man advantage.

Similarly, Elek was perfect on six power plays, as well as an extended five-on-three penalty in the second period and another five-on-three opportunity when the Fire pulled their goalie on the power play in the last 30 seconds of the game.

“She’s been solid for us and getting a shutout for her is going to help her confidence even more,” Willoughby said of his rookie netminder.

“It helps our team’s confidence and it just pushes everyone to do what they can to help the team out and that’s exactly what she did today.”

The score would remain 1-0 until Bears forward Kassidy Kicia doubled P.A.’s lead in the third period during a stretch of four-on-four play, putting the puck on net from a sharp angle and ringing it off the post and in.

Willoughby said he expects to see an evenly-matched series against the Fire, as the semis head to Melville for Game 2.

“Our quality chances we need to capitalize on and if we don’t it’s going to be a lot closer than we want it,” he said, adding that the team will be working on “getting better in every area” ahead of Game 2.

“I thought we got better as the game whet on. That has to continue on Tuesday. We have to start where we left off and just keep building.”

Game 2 will be played at the Horizon Credit Union Centre in Melville on Tuesday, March 7. Puck drop is 4 p.m.


Game Summary:

Prince Albert 2, Melville 0

Northern Bears lead best-of-five series 1-0

First Period

  1. Prince Albert, Kushniruk 1 (Heidt, Ab. Soyko) 4:44

Second Period

No scoring

Third Period

  1. Prince Albert, Kicia 1 (Al. Soyko) 6:33

Goalies: Prince Albert –­ Brooklyn Elek, 28 saves (W, 2-0-0); Melville – Ashlyn Taillon, 36 saves (L, 3-1-0).

Stars of the Game: 1. Brooklyn Elek; 2. Eryn Johanson; 3. Jadyn Kushniruk.