Firestarter Tournament an important building block for Northern Bears

Daily Herald File Photo The Prince Albert Northern Bears celebrate after scoring a goal in a pre-season game against the Lloydminster Steelers at the Art Hauser Centre.

While their overall record wasn’t what they were hoping for, there were a lot of positives that the Prince Albert Northern Bears were able to take out of last weekend’s Firestarter Tournament in Calgary.

“We thought it went really well,” Northern Bears assistant coach Steve Young said following a team practice at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday night.

“Other than our exhibition games earlier this month against Lloydminster, it’s been about a full year since the girls have had competitive games, so it was important for them to play hockey again.”

The Bears posted a 0-2-1 record in round-robin play at the tournament, which was won by the Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna program in a 2-1 final against the Regina Rebels.

They lost a 3-2 contest to the host Calgary Fire, dropped a 6-2 decision to the Northern Capitals from Prince George, B.C. and played to a 2-2 tie with the Battlefords Sharks.

“I thought there were a lot of positives with the way that the girls worked during the games,” Young said.

“This group of girls have a great attitude and they are willing to try different things that we throw at them as a coaching staff. When you go into a weekend tournament like that one early in the season, you aren’t really sure what to expect, but I thought we got stronger as the tournament went on and we’re only going to get stronger from here.”

The trip to Calgary was also used was a bonding experience for the Bears roster, in addition to getting a chance to see opponents that they may run into in the future, especially at next year’s Esso Cup in Prince Albert.

“Nowadays, every player from the province seems to know everyone from the teams in their league,” Young said. “When you get out there and face those new teams and new players, it helps you quite a lot, especially as we get ready for next spring.”

Next up for the Bears is a trip to Swift Current next weekend for the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League showcase event, which will mark their final exhibition games before the regular season begins.

They will face the Rebels at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 and will then take on the Notre Dame Hounds at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, with both games being held at the Fairview Arena.

“We’re hoping that a lot of the things that we’re working on in practice ahead of these games will be close to the systems we run when the season starts,” Young said.

“We’ve been working on quite a few things in practice and our team has done a great job so far with what (head coach) Jeff (Willoughby) has thrown at them in practice. With the hard work that we’ve been doing, I think we will be in good shape heading into Swift Current.”

The Bears regular season schedule will begin on Saturday, Oct. 9 in Regina as they’ll visit the Rebels for a 7:30 p.m. matchup at the Co-Operators Centre.

Their home opener will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21, when the Sharks will pay a visit to the Art Hauser Centre.