Prairie fire fighters

Prince Albert A&W Bears forward Kassidy Kicia has the puck knocked off her stick by Melville Prairie Fire forward Josée Aitken during last year’s SFMAAAHL quarterfinals. This year the teams are meeting in the semi-finals. (File photo)

P.A. Northern Bears to face Melville Prairie Fire in second playoff round

After sweeping the Battlefords Sharks in the opening round of the SFMAAAHL playoffs, the Prince Albert Northern Bears are preparing to take on the Melville Prairie Fire in the semis.

Game 1 of the best-of-five matchup takes place at the Art Hauser Centre on Sunday, March 5 at 1 p.m. and history suggests that it may be a close series.

The Bears and the Fire are this season’s second- and third-ranked teams, finishing the year with 62 and 55 points, respectively. Overall the Bears had a stronger season on the scoreboard, scoring 134 goals while only allowing 50. Melville, on the other hand, racked up only 98 goals and allowed 63. But when the teams met on the ice those statistics meant very little.

The teams split the four-game regular season series down the middle. Melville won the first match 4-3, with Megan Leblanc and Allison Hayhurst scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals in the last three minutes of regulation. P.A. blanked the Fire 3-0 the following night. Game 3 was another P.A. shutout, this time 2-0 in the Melville rink. The Fire returned the favour one day later, beating the Bears by a 3-0 score.

The Bears and the Fire are familiar playoff rivals, having met in last year’s quarterfinals. The series took all five games, with the home team winning each match.

The first-round matchup started off close, with the Bears winning Game 1 by a 4-3 score in double overtime and the Fire bouncing back in Game 2 with a 2-1 win. P.A. found the firepower in Game 3, lighting up Mellville 9-3. The Fire responded with a 3-1 win to force Game 5, which the Bears narrowly won 1-0.

In the other semi-final matchup the No 1.-ranked Saskatoon Stars are taking on the No. 5 Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats, a rematch of last year’s championship finals.


Tale of the Tape

On Sunday, March 5 the Prince Albert Northern Bears welcome the Melville Prairie Fire to the Art Hauser Centre. It is the first game of the teams’ best-of-five SFMAAAHL semi-final series. (Records read W-L-OTW-OTL)

Record: Prince Albert — 2-0-1-0; Melville — 3-1-0-0

Last 10: Prince Albert — 2-0-1-0; Melville — 3-1-0-0

Top scorers: Prince Albert — Kate Ball (4 points); Melville — Josée Aitken, Heather Fiske, Sami Jo Henry (4 points)

Goals for/against: Prince Albert — 14/4; Melville — 15/5

Last meeting: Goalie Ashlyn Taillon stopped all 35 shots she faced as the Prairie Fire defeated the Northern Bears 3-0 at the Horizon Credit Union Centre in Melville on Jan. 15, 2017.

Playoff schedule:

All home games at Art Hauser Centre

Game 1 vs. Melville: Sunday, March 5 at 1 p.m.

Game 2 @ Melville: Tuesday, March 7, at 4 p.m.

Game 3 vs. Melville: Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m.

*Game 4 @ Melville: Saturday, March 11, time TBD

*Game 5 vs. Melville: Sunday, March 12 at 1 p.m.

*If necessary