Shut down in hockey town

P.A. Northern Bears defenceman Jordan Ashe (4) checks Weyburn Gold Wings skater Kaitlyn Harrison (4) and knocks the puck away from her to teammate Kassidy Kicia (6) during the first period of the teams' SFMAAAHL game on Feb. 17, 2018. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Bears down Gold Wings in back-to-back weekend games; ready for playoff push

The Prince Albert Northern Bears ended their regular season on a high note, beating the winless Weyburn Gold Wings by a combined score of 15-3 in female Midget AAA Hockey League action from Prince Albert over the weekend.

The Bears won 7-3 on Saturday and 8-0 on Sunday, giving goalie Lexi Beuker her second shutout of the year.

The two wins now round out the P.A. team’s season with 22 total wins, 21 of which were in regulation and one was in overtime. The Bears had four total losses on the year – three in regulation and one in overtime (once to Regina and Notre Dame; twice to Saskatoon; and once to Regina in overtime).

Through the two games, the Bears had scores from 10 different skaters, including forwards Jasper Desmarais and Abby Soyko, who scored in both games. Desmarais also notched double scores on Friday, while Soyko and Camryn Amundson scored twice on Sunday.

“I think we haven’t been scoring a lot lately,” Soyko said of previous games leading up to the weekend. “I think it’s good for us to have these games before playoffs, to show that we can put the puck in the net, if we all work together and pass the puck really well.”

The Bears out-shot the Gold Wings 59-11 on Saturday and 46-10 on Sunday.

“I think we struggled in the games before to get our shot total up. And after yesterday and today, it’s nice to see pucks getting to the nets,” Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.

The Gold Wings held and found some momentum in each game – during the first period and a half on Saturday, and the third period on Sunday.

Backstopped by goalie Amara Lewendon for the first game, Weyburn jumped out to a 3-2 lead after 31 minutes of play.

P.A. Northern Bears forward Abby Soyko (19) passes the puck up ice to one of her teammates while playing the Weyburn Gold Wings during the first period of the teams’ SFMAAAHL game on Feb. 17, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Despite being heavily out-shot in the first half of the Saturday game, the Gold Wings played with confidence, poise and some chippy physicality to find holes in the Bears’ defence.

With less than three minutes to go in the second frame, Desmarais tied the game at 3-3 with her first goal.

The third period was all Bears. The P.A. club scored four consecutive goals to win the game 7-3. The Bears’ defenders limited Weyburn to only two shots in the frame. Paris Oleksyn, Desmarais, Soyko and Kailee Peppler scored over the course of the period.

By the start of the third period on Sunday, the Northern Bears were up 7-0 on the Gold Wings, prompting Weyburn’s head coach Chad Kish to pull goalie Daneka Dickson from net and call Lewendon to finish the game.

The Gold Wings netminder stopped nine of the ten shots she faced in the period, thanks in part to the Gold Wings defencemen boxing out the Bears skaters in their zone.

The Gold Wings were visibly more confident and energetic when playing in front of Lewendon, too.

Despite their efforts, Amundson scored her team’s eighth goal of the day, a rare moment when Weyburn’s defencemen left a Bears skater untouched in front of their netminder.

Willoughby said he was pleased with his team’s improvement in Sunday’s game.

“We found the net a bit earlier, so I think that was number one – just more confidence of actually seeing the puck get to the net, and that’s a good start for us heading to the playoffs,” he said.

Despite some rough play from the Gold Wings that saw the Bears retaliate after whistles in the second period, the P.A. team refocused in the third frame, and skated away from most of the remaining post-whistle scrums.

Along with Amundson in the third period, the Bears had goals from Tobi Fontaine, Kassidy Kicia and Amundson in the first period, and from Soyko (2), Desmarais and Brooklyn Anderson in the second period.

P.A. Northern Bears forward Kate Ball (21) follows the play while playing against the Weyburn Gold Wings during the first period of the teams’ SFMAAAHL game on Feb. 17, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Beuker’s 10 saves gave the goalie her second shut out of the season.

“It wasn’t a hard one, but I think it was good and well-deserved, because it goes to show that our team kept the puck out of our end. And especially the shots prove that we didn’t have any time in our zone, which is what we look for,” she said.

Her teammates have developed that type of play well throughout the season, she said.

“It’s really good and it’s gotten a lot stronger. Especially because we have one rookie on defence, and she’s done really well to improve.”

The Bears finish their season in second place in the eight-team league.

The top seven teams in the league make the playoffs; the first place team (the Saskatoon Stars) earns a first-round bye.

The Bears will face the Battlefords Sharks in the first round of the five-game playoff series. Game days and times have not yet been confirmed.

Watch this week’s sports coverage in the Daily Herald for more stories about the Bears as they prepare for their 2017-18 playoff run.