The Prince Albert Northern Bears scored twice in the last seven minutes of the game, but the late push wasn’t enough as they fell 3-2 to the Saskatoon Stars Thursday night at the Art Hauser Centre.
Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said the lack of shots put towards Stars goalie Mikayla Christmann was the main reason for the defeat.
“Too many shots didn’t get through tonight,” Willoughby said. “We need to work harder and make the other team work harder. I thought we got the pucks in good areas to be able to shoot, but I lost count after 20 blocked shots.”
The Stars opened the scoring early, just 2:06 into the first period. Bears netminder Brooke Archer couldn’t track the puck down in front of the net, and Sage Babey jumped all over it and poked home her seventh goal of the season. The Stars went up 1-0 on their first shot of the game, and took that lead into the first intermission.
There would be no more scoring until the 14:37 mark of the second period. Stars forward Ireland Stein grabbed the puck along the near wall and moved it into the slot. She ripped a shot past Archer’s blocker, giving Stein her third goal of the season. Saskatoon led 2-0 after forty minutes.
In the third period, Avery Bairos sent a pass up the middle to her Stars teammate Keyra Buziak. Buziak broke in on Archer on a breakaway, going backhand forehand, and fired a shot past Archer’s glove this time. Buziak picked up her third goal of the season, as Saskatoon went up 3-0 with 12:30 left in the final frame.
With under ten to go in the game, Prince Albert really got things going after giving up the third goal. After creating some dangerous chances in the Stars end, the Bears were finally awarded with a goal with 7:15 to go. Kassie Ferster took a feed from Claudia Lammers from the left circle and ripped a shot from the high slot. Ferster beat Christmann high on the blocker side, and cut the Saskatoon lead to 3-1 with her second goal of the year. Jacquelyne Chief also got an assist on the play, giving the Bears defenceman her first point this season.
“Kass has the first shot to get us going there in the third,” Willoughby said. “Lots of players had the puck on their stick a lot tonight. I thought we did a good job of getting pucks into where we should be shooting.”
With just over a minute to go and a faceoff in the neutral zone, the Bears pulled Archer to get a sixth attacker on the ice. Prince Albert threw pucks on net and scored another goal with 42 seconds left. Sophia Zuck buried a shot right in front of the crease, making it a one goal game with enough time to set up another offensive zone chance.
With just seconds left in the game, Paige Dawson put a shot on goal that was tipped in front, but just missed the net on the far post. Saskatoon was able to kill off the rest of the clock and come away with the 3-2 victory.
Both teams had more than ten days off coming into this matchup. Bears forward Calla Kampen said rust was definitely a factor at the start of the contest.
“We only had two practices this week coming in, so I definitely think that had an impact on our play,” she said. “I think we woke up in the third period. We got our feet moving, and scored that first goal and another one late, so that kind of helped.”
With just one more game before the Christmas break, a road date with the Stars, Kampen explained how the team needs to play to have a shot at winning a big game.
“We definitely need to have a good start and get our shots through. It would be really nice to pick up a few more points before the break, and it would give us a lot of confidence coming back after Christmas.”
The Bears fell to 5-9-0-1 with the loss, and remain just two points behind the Battlefords Sharks for fifth place in the league. They play their final game of 2021 on Saturday in a rematch with the Stars in Saskatoon. Puck drop is at 2pm.
After the break, the Bears open up the New Year with a meeting at the Art Hauser Centre against the Swift Current Wildcats on Jan. 7th.