The Prince Albert Northern Bears wrapped up their 2021-22 regular season campaign with an emphatic 9-2 win over the Battlefords Sharks on Sunday afternoon at the Art Hauser Centre. Carnell Olsen scored her first goal in the SMAU18AAAHL, while Sophia Zuck registered her first career hat trick in the win.
“It was important that we worked hard and did the things we needed to do,” head coach Steve Young said. “To come up with some success today, hopefully we can keep it rolling for the playoffs.”
It was an honorary start to the game for Prince Albert, who sent out the five players who are spending their last season with the team: Paige Dawson, Erin Kirkland, Sophia Zuck, Carnell Olsen, and Taylor Leitch.
“It was really special,” Zuck said about the starting lineup. “It turned out really good since we were able to score on our first shift. It put a smile on all of our faces. We know this is it for us, and we all tried to do our part for the team. We’ll always be Bears.”
The magic among the veterans was evident from the opening faceoff, as Kirkland scored the game’s opening goal just 51 seconds into the game on a three on one rush in the Battleford’s end. Olsen led the rush down the left wing, and sent a saucer pass in front. Kirkland was on the doorstep to whack the centering feed home, giving the Bears an early 1-0 lead.
The Sharks tied the game just over two minutes later on a man advantage. Alyson Hockley feathered a pass in front for Alexie Palchinski, who blasted a one timer that netminder Paige Fischer got a piece of, but not enough. Deflecting off of her blocker and in, the Battlefords found the game tying goal on Palchinski’s sixth of the season.
After the ensuing faceoff, Claudia Lammers found the back of the net just eight seconds after the Sharks had tied the game. After the puck was dumped into the Battlefords zone, Lammers pounced on the loose puck that came out in front of the net. All alone with just goalie Taylor Enns to beat, the forward placed a shot shortside and in, giving the Bears their second lead in the opening four minutes, as it became a 2-1 Prince Albert lead.
The Sharks answered back again just over three minutes later, once again tying the game at 2-2. Mykayla Pylypow jumped all over a rebound chance in the low slot, burying her fifth goal of the year past Fischer. In what was shaping up to be a seesaw battle all game, it became a 2-2 tie in the opening seven minutes of the contest.
Zuck potted another goal for the Bears 10:53 to go in the first period, capitalizing on a rebound in front. After Lammers ripped a shot from the left circle, Enns left a juicy rebound in the slot. Crashing the net on the follow up opportunity, Zuck snapped a quick shot home, giving the Bears a 3-2 lead after the first period with her team leading 13th goal of the season.
Jazlyn Petreman and Dawson kicked off the second period with back to back goals 1:14 apart. Zuck added two more goals in the second to complete the hat trick, while Olsen netted her first goal. Dawson added another goal in the final minute, as Prince Albert took a 9-2 lead into the third, also holding a 25-23 edge in shots.
“I thought we scored some timely goals,” Young said. “That kind of got us rolling, and that’s important, because heading into the playoffs, any timely goal you can get matters.”
“The team is full of energy,” Zuck added. “Everyone’s excited for the win. A lot of girls put up points today, and that just gives us even more confidence heading into playoffs. There are going to be some good teams that we might go up against, and we have to give it 110% moving forward.”
Not to be overlooked by the abundance of goal scoring, Fischer put in a solid performance between the pipes for the Bears, turning aside 30 of 32 shots. Young said that it’s important for their goaltenders to play well, even when the offense takes over.
“Goaltending takes you a long way,” he said. “I believe we have two good goaltenders. We’ll discuss how we’re going to work them, but we’re confident in both of them, and they’re going to be big for us.”
Prince Albert begins their postseason on Saturday, March 5 in Saskatoon against the Stars.