Prince Albert’s Lehner puts on a show as Wildcats tame Bears 2-1

Julia Cey scored her ninth goal of the season in the third period in the Bears 2-1 loss to the Wildcats on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

Karlee Lehner made 28 saves on 29 shots between the pipes for Swift Current on Saturday, as the Wildcats fended off the Prince Albert Northern Bears 2-1 at the Art Hauser Centre.

Lehner, who is from Prince Albert, made 65 stops on 67 shots in two games against the Bears over the weekend, and said it felt good to put in a good performance in her return home.

“I was a little nervous,” Lehner said. “But it got better. Friday was a little more nerve wracking, but today was a lot better. Last game was a good chance to get back in and warmed up again, and today was a lot easier.”

Similar to the game on Friday night, the Wildcats opened the scoring in the first period. Leading a shorthanded rush, Kiana McNinch stole a puck in the neutral zone and headed down the ice. She kept the puck on the two on one break, and beat goalie Paige Fischer, who got her second straight start in net. With 13:43 to go in the first, Swift Current went up 1-0. That was all the damage done in the opening stanza, as the Wildcats took a one goal lead into the first intermission, leading in shots 10-6.

With just over four minutes left in the second, the Wildcats went up by a pair. A loose puck to the left of Fischer was sitting near the post, and dug out by Olivia Kirwan. A missed poke check by Fischer proved to be costly, as Kirwan was able to beat Fischer five hole, putting Swift Current up by a pair. 2-0 was the score after two periods in favour of the Wildcats.

With 14:22 left in the third period, the Bears found the back of the net for the first time in the game. On a powerplay and creating pressure in the Swift Current end, Prince Albert generated a chance on a regroup play in the neutral zone. Julia Cey took a pass from Paige Dawson and broke down the right wing, wiring a shot bar down, cutting the Wildcats lead to 2-1. Cey picked up her ninth goal of the season, and third in three games.

Prince Albert made a late comeback bid in the final two minutes of the third period, pulling the goalie, but couldn’t find the equalizer, as the Wildcats held on to complete the weekend series sweep, winning 2-1.

“There were two good teams battling it out, and we fell a little short on the offensive side again today,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said. “I thought we had enough good chances to match their two goals, but just one of those games where pucks didn’t find their way in.”

The Wildcats collected their 11th win of the season, moving them into second place in the SFU18AAAHL standings with an 11-7-3-0 record. Lehner explained how the team can use their two weekend wins as momentum moving forward.

“Hopefully we can keep playing together as a team, and help each other out all the time,” she said. “We didn’t give up this weekend, and we never quit, and those were the biggest things for us.”

The Bears fall to 5-10-1-2 this season, and will head on the road to take on the Wildcats again in Rosetown. They will then head to Weyburn for a pair of games against the Gold Wings, before returning home on Jan. 29 and 30 for two home games against the Regina Rebels.