Northern Bears pick up huge six points in weekend sweep of Gold Wings

Erin Kirkland scored twice as the Prince Albert Northern Bears beat the Weyburn Gold Wings 5-1 Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

For the second time this season, the Prince Albert Northern Bears have won two games in a row. A 5-1 win over the Weyburn Gold Wings on Sunday gave them back to back wins, after shutting out Weyburn 4-0 on Saturday night. 15 penalties in Sunday’s game between both teams provided a much slower pace, and even with the win, head coach Jeff Willoughby knows discipline has to be better moving forward.

“We want to have good flow in our game,” Willoughby said. “We took too many penalties in the game. That’s the way the game got called, and we have to realize that some games get called tighter than others. That’s an adjustment you have to make, but ideally we want less penalties and more 5 on 5 play.”

The Gold Wings scored the first goal of the contest just 40 seconds in, as Paisley Arnsten buried a shot through Brooke Archer’s pads from in tight. After that, the penalties started to flood in, with nine penalties altogether in the first period.

The Bears saw themselves on two separate 5 on 3 powerplays in the first, and cashed in on both of them. Julia Cey tied the game up after a loose puck in front of the net found her stick, and she banged home her sixth goal of the year.

Just under two minutes later with Prince Albert on another 5 on 3, Sophia Zuck sent a beautiful pass from the right side of the crease to Erin Kirkland in the low slot. Kirkland sniped a shot past Lexi Peace’s blocker, giving the Bears a 2-1 edge heading into the second period.

“The 5 on 3’s helped tonight,” Kirkland said. “I feel like we could’ve taken advantage on some more of the 5 on 4 opportunities we had. The penalties were going both ways so we had to adjust to the refs, and not play as rough as we usually do.”

Sasha Malenfant added to Prince Albert’s lead with 28 seconds left in the second. She intercepted a Gold Wings pass in the Weyburn zone, and beat Peace with a laser over the blocker, and the Bears entered the third with a 3-1 lead.

The Bears came out flying in the third period, relentless on the forecheck in the first ten minutes. Willoughby said the message in the second intermission was to come out aggressive.

“We knew Weyburn would come out strong in the first five or ten minutes,” he said. “We had to survive that and not give up any unnecessary chances, and after that we just started pressing.”

Kirkland added her second goal of the night with an empty net marker with 26 seconds left, and Claudia Lammers rounded out the scoring with 8 seconds left as the Bears improved to 5-8-0-1, moving to within two points of the Battlefords Sharks, who were shutout 1-0 against the Swift Current Wildcats.

Kirkland has registered five points in the last two games, while Zuck added two assists. Those two play on the same line alongside Jasmine Kohl, and Kirkland thinks their line is connecting more and more every game.

“I think our line is really clicking,” Kirkland said. “We make lots of good passes to each other and we’re all getting points and it’s been fun.”

Kirkland is second in team scoring behind Zuck, and when asked if the two have any sort of rivalry, Kirkland laughed as she gave her thoughts.

“I’m happy for Sophia. She’s been playing amazing. I love her on my line and we do really good together. I’m just happy she’s doing good too.”

With nine goals over the last two games against the Gold Wings, Willoughby explained how the team will have to carry over strong offensive performances against some of the tougher teams down the stretch.

“We just have to keep being consistent,” he said. “If you go out there 70% of the time doing the right thing, what are you doing in the other 30%. You have to fill in those gaps, and the consistent teams are the hardest teams to beat, and that’s what we want to be. I can’t stress enough how important these games coming up against Saskatoon are going to be. That’s a team that we have to catch in the standings.”

Prince Albert has some time off before they play a home and home with the Saskatoon Stars on Dec. 16 and 18. Those are the final two games for the Bears until the New Year.