Northern Bears bow out of playoffs after first round sweep to Stars

The Prince Albert Northern Bears were swept in the first round of the SFU18AAAHL playoff by the Saskatoon Stars. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

On Wednesday night, the Prince Albert Northern Bears had their 2021-22 season come to an abrupt halt after dropping a 3-2 contest to the Saskatoon Stars in game three of their first round playoff matchup.

The win gave Saskatoon the series sweep, after winning 7-3 and 6-2 in games one and two respectively.

“I thought we played a good, hard game,” Bears head coach Steve Young said. “We started the way we wanted to, but (Saskatoon) scored a couple of goals. I thought our girls stuck to the gameplan, and they kept pursuing.”

Game three ended on a heartbreaking note, as a premature whistle negated a late powerplay goal for the Bears. With a loose puck was sitting in the crease, the official blew the whistle, mistakenly thinking the goaltender had covered the puck.

“We had a chance to tie it up late, and we were disappointed with the result that the referee made, but I’m very proud of our girls. They worked hard and did everything they were asked to do. It’s never fun coming up short, but lesson learned, and this will make us stronger moving forward.”

In stark comparison to games one and two, Prince Albert was able to keep themselves in the game through all three periods. After trailing 2-0 on Stars goals from Avery Bairos and Sage Babey, Erin Kirkland brought the Bears back to within one after the first period. Later trailing 3-1 in the second period, Claudia Lammers finally threw the monkey off of her back, scoring to make it a 3-2 game.

The unfortunate whistle near the end of the game foiled any plans for the Bears to bring a game four back to the Art Hauser Centre, bringing an early end to their playoff campaign.

“It was a hard fought game, and both teams battled,” Young said. “The girls carried a lot of energy into game three, knowing that it was an important game. I was very proud of what they did, not only in Wednesday’s game, but in the whole series.”

Young was brought in as head coach in a tough spot himself, taking over as bench boss near the end of the season. Putting together an identity under a new coaching staff, and getting the team ready for the playoffs was a tough task in itself already, but Young gave a lot of credit to the team’s stick-to-itiveness.

“They’re a good group of girls that want to play hockey,” he said. “Any time they go through a season like this and not getting the amount of wins that a usual P.A. team should have, I think the girls did a good job of pulling together. Putting coaching aside, they were able to just play hockey, and hopefully they’ll continue to do that in our journey to the Esso Cup.”

Esso Cup

Although the re-launched Esso Cup press conference happened earlier in the season assuring that the national championship tournament would be hosted in Prince Albert, the host city is up in the air once more.

A released statement from Hockey Canada reads as follows:

“Currently, Hockey Canada is reviewing with the members all possible options to host National Championships in the spring of 2022. At this point we do not have any detailed updates but will make a hosting decision with the best interest of the athletes at the forefront. We hope to have more information available in the coming weeks.”

A Daily Herald article on the Esso Cup with words from Prince Albert Northern Bears president Laura Quesnel will be released tomorrow.