Northern Bears prepare to welcome first place Regina

Herald File Photo/Nathan Reiter Prince Albert Northern Bears forward Jasmine Kohl prepares to fire a shot on goal during SFU18AAAHL action at the Art Hauser Centre earlier this season.

A long wait is finally coming to an end for the Prince Albert Northern Bears.

The Northern Bears have been out of action since Jan. 19, a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Saskatoon Stars, but are looking forward to hosting the Regina Rebels at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday evening.

It will be exact 21 days, or three full weeks between games for the Northern Bears. Forward Jasmine Kohl says the Bears have taken advantage of the time off to improve themselves.

“On our off few weeks here, we’ve been doing a lot of extra training. We took in some spin classes instead of our usual dry land. We worked in some more extra dry lands as well and we’re just pushing to working hard. We had some high paced practices through the last few weeks as well, just to kind of get it going and worked on a lot of system structure just to get everything kind of down.”

The Bears will face a tough task on Thursday with Regina currently sitting on top of the league standings with a record of 20-5-1-0 on the season, including a perfect 4-0-0-0 record against Prince Albert this season.

Northern Bears head coach Steve Young says that Prince Albert was able to use the lengthy hiatus to their advantage and fine tune their game.

“It’s always tough to have a break, but in saying that, we were allowed to slow some things down, (and) break some things down into small areas of our game. Hopefully going into the last stretch here, we’ve learned some things. Obviously, when you’re going to play Regina, your first game back, we know it’s going to be tough.”

In their previous game against Saskatoon, the Northern Bears dressed three affiliate players due to a number of injuries on the roster. Young says the break in the schedule allowed the Bears to get back closer to full strength.

“It definitely helped us that way. It allowed us to get our bumps and bruises back here. We’re hoping for our next game that we have everybody back and if not, we will use our APs again to keep our roster at a full 20.”

With a long break between games, there may be some adjustment for getting back to game speed. But, Kohl says the Bears have been having strong practices throughout the last three weeks and that will help them when they return to action.

“I think doing practices how we’ve been doing at a super high pace has really kept us in that kind of game like scenario. I think we’ve been kind of in it the whole time and I believe that we’ll be ready just from just from having that competition through the practices.”

The Bears enter play on Thursday having dropped their last three decisions against Swift Current and Saskatoon to close out their schedule in the month of January.

Kohl says the team has shown improvement throughout the season and has victories against opponents near the top of the standings.

“I think our skill has definitely improved a lot in the last while, kind of from in the Christmas break till now and showing that we can be other teams that were first at one point like Notre Dame and Swift. I think we’ve got a lot of confidence going into this game. They’re good competition, but we just play them like any other team, and I think we’ll be in it.”

Kohl adds that the Bears can send a message to the rest of the league with a solid performance against Regina.

“I think if we come out on top versus Regina, it’ll kind of show off to the rest of the teams that we are here to play and that we deserve our spot at Esso this year. I think, just moving forward, maybe get a few wins from Saskatoon and see where it goes from there.”

The Northern Bears were in their final stages of preparation with a practice at the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday night.

Young says that the Bears have to be ready from puck drop against a strong opponent in Regina, who possess 4 of the league’s top 10 scorers.

“They’re a very good hockey team and you know I think you have to respect them. But at the same time when you’re playing your opposition, you got to make sure that that you’re ready to and prepared to do the things to beat them. So, it’s important that when the puck drops, it’s the start of the game that we’re ready to play. We can’t sit back and wait to see what’s going to happen. We have to make things happen.”

The Bears and Regina square off at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m.