Northern Bears rolling with two straight wins at Esso Cup

Sophia Zuck scored a pair of goals for the Prince Albert Northern Bears as part of a 6-5 win over the Fraser Valley Rush on Wednesday night. --Photo from Hockey Canada

Whether it’s the country music nights in the hotel rooms or simply just enjoying the moment at the 2022 Esso Cup, it’s helped the Prince Albert Northern Bears find a new jump in their step, and they now have two wins to show for it.

They picked up their first win of the tournament in convincing fashion, beating the Remparts du Richelieu 9-4 on Tuesday night, and followed that up with a 6-5 win over the previously undefeated Fraser Valley Rush on Wednesday.

“Things are just working for us right now,” head coach Steve Young said. “We don’t want to take this for granted, and we’re still going to work hard. We’ve been able to put some pucks in the net, and the girls have been rewarded for their work.”

The Bears poured 60 shots on goal on Tuesday night against the Quebec champs, while going 5/9 on the man advantage. After a 4-4 deadlock through 40 minutes, Prince Albert pulled away with five third period goals. Erin Kirkland scored a hat trick in the win, while Julia Cey and Brooklin Fry each added two goals and an assist. Brooke Archer stopped 18 of 22 shots in her first start of the tournament.

“When you go through the first game of the tournament, everything is new,” Young said. “When we got through that, I think the girls got a lot more relaxed for the second game. As we’ve said, we’re here, and we’re here to play, and that’s what our girls have been doing.”

Prince Albert found themselves trailing 2-0 to the Rush on Wednesday night, but managed to fight back to a 3-3 tie after the first period. Goals from Sasha Malenfant, Tristyn Endicott, and Sophia Zuck helped break even after 20 minutes, while Prince Albert was outshot 16-13 in the opening frame.

The Bears struck twice more in the second period, while the Rush scored just once to give Prince Albert a 4-3 lead heading into the third. Taylor Leitch sniped a shot home on a powerplay in the middle frame, while Zuck potted her second goal of the contest with 2:32 to go in the period. Vienna Rubin had the lone goal for Fraser Valley in the second period.

Claudia Lammers kicked things off in the third period with her first goal of the tournament 5:20 in. Her goal gave the Bears a 6-4 lead, and would stand up to be the game winner, as Gillain Lapierre scored for the Rush to make it 6-5. Paige Fischer turned aside 25 of 30 shots sent her way for her first win of the tournament, as the Bears took the game by a 6-5 final.

“Any time you get a win, no matter who it’s against, it helps with your confidence,” Young added. “We know every team in this tournament is tough, and anyone can beat anyone. Those wins have given us some extra confidence heading into our next game.”

Prince Albert’s next game will be against a familiar foe on Thursday night. They take on the Notre Dame Hounds, who captured the SFU18AAAHL. In five regular season meetings this year, the Bears went 0-4-0-1 against the champs from Sask. However, the Hounds have gotten off to a slow start to their Esso Cup run. The team is 1-2, and have lost two straight games after an opening day win.

The Bears will look to improve their record to 3-1, while the Hounds are hoping to pull back even at 2-2. Puck drop for Thursday’s contest is 5 p.m.