Northern Bears wrap up regular season with pair of weekend home games against Sharks

The Northern Bears wrap up their regular season with two home games against the Battlefords Sharks. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Northern Bears already know when and where they will begin their 2022 playoff run. They kick off the postseason on March 5 in Saskatoon against the Stars. However, they still have two more games left in the regular season before they can start focusing on the playoffs.

They welcome the Battlefords Sharks to the Art Hauser Centre for games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

“We’re obviously still focused on the regular season,” Bears head coach Steve Young said. “We have to make sure we’re doing the right things. We know we’re playing Saskatoon (in the first round), and we’re going to have a gameplan for the playoffs. But every game going down the stretch here will be a big one.”

Prince Albert enters this weekend coming off of a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Stars on Tuesday night in Saskatoon. Sophia Zuck scored twice and Paige Fischer made 32 saves in the loss. Avery Bairos had a hat trick for the Stars in the win, including the game winning goal 20 seconds into the second overtime.

This season against the Battlefords, the Bears have gone 2-1-0-0 in three meetings. Prince Albert was handed a 4-1 loss in their first meeting of the season, which was a part of their 0-4-0-0 start to the 2021-22 campaign.

Prince Albert snapped that losing streak against the Sharks exactly one week later in their home opener on Oct. 21 by a 3-1 final. Julia Cey, Calla Kampen, and Sophia Zuck all had goals, while Brooke Archer made 19 saves on 20 shots as the Bears picked up their first win of the season.

After former head coach Jeff Willoughby resigned as bench boss, Young stepped in to fill the role. After a three game losing streak to end the month of January, Prince Albert bounced back with a 2-0 win over the Sharks on Feb. 10, registering their first win in their first game under Young’s coaching. Archer picked up her first shutout of the year, turning aside all 23 shots thrown at her.

It’s hard not to look ahead to the playoffs for fans, and many should feel confident in Prince Albert’s first round matchup with the Stars. In the regular season, the Bears put up a 1-2-1-1 (win, two losses, overtime win, overtime loss) record against Saskatoon. Their plus two goal differential is their second best against any team head to head this year (plus 14 against Weyburn). Part of that included a 6-2 win over the Stars at home on Jan. 20, which halted a three game slide.

A pair of home wins this weekend would do nothing but boost the confidence of a rejuvenated Bears team. They will also march into their playoff series against the Stars with more rest, as Saskatoon wraps up their regular season on Tuesday, giving them just four days of rest before a best of five series with Prince Albert.

Puck drop for the Bears’ game on Saturday against the Battlefords is 7pm at the Art Hauser Centre. Their regular season finale is set for Sunday afternoon at the AHC with a 1:30pm faceoff.