Sunday, 20 March 2016

Stars rally falls short

Wildcats take 1-0 lead in SFMAAAHL title series

Anna Leschyshyn drives hard to the goal for the Stars.
    The Saskatoon Stars don’t normally dig themselves into big holds, but the one they dug on Sunday night cost them the opening game of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series.
    Opening the series at home at the Agriplace Arena, the Stars fell behind 4-1 to the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats heading into the second intermission. The hosts made a furious rally scoring twice in the third, but the Wildcats were able to close out a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-five series.
    The Wildcats got the jump on the Stars from the opening faceoff and controlled play throughout the first period. At the 6:13 mark of the first, the Wildcats opened the game’s scoring when rookie forward Brooklyn Colburn potted her first goal of the post-season. That tally seemed to knock the Stars back on their heels for a good part of the first two periods.
    With 3.3 seconds to play in the first, Swift Current added a dagger of an insurance goal, when Kayla Kirwan picked up her first marker of the post-season to go along with seven assists. Swift Current outshot Saskatoon 17-8 in the opening 20 minutes.
    The visitor’s surge didn’t end there. At the 6:17 mark of the second, Wildcats winger Kaci Jones scored to give her side a 3-0 edge.
    The Stars managed to halt the bleeding for a short moment, when Jordyn Gerlitz popped her first of the post-season just 37 seconds after Jones’ goal to cut the Wildcats edge to 3-1.
Josee Casavant, right, celebrates her goal with Kate Scidmore.
    Swift Current resorted its three-goal edge with 3:05 to play in the second. Breaking into the Stars zone on a two-on-one rush, Wildcats winger Kate Scidmore slipped a smart pass over to linemate Josee Casavant, which sprung her on a breakaway. Casavant tucked home her fourth goal of the playoffs to give the Wildcats a 4-1 edge.
    Shortly after that goal, Wildcats star forward Chloe Smith had a breakaway chance, but she was denied by Stars netminder Emma Johnson.
    In the third, the Stars, who are the defending SFMAAAHL champs, started to hit their stride. They cut the Wildcats lead to 4-2, when offensive defender Willow Slobodzian blasted home a point-shot goal on the power play.
    With 7:04 to play in the third, the Stars pinned the Wildcats in their zone for a long stretch that resulted in a goal from Abby Shirley to further cut Swift Current’s lead to 4-3.
    Saskatoon almost found the equalizer a short time after Shirley’s goal. Power forward Anna Leschyshyn, who already stands 5-foot-10 at age 14, muscled her way past a Wildcats defender on a one-on-one rush for a scoring chance, but she was stoned by 17-year-old veteran goalie Jasey Book.
    Book, who has committed to play for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team in the fall, made 29 stops to earn the win in goal for Swift Current. Johnson turned away 27 shots to take the loss in Saskatoon’s net.
Stars goalie Emma Johnson stops Wildcats forward Janessa Fournier.
    The Stars topped the SFMAAAHL regular season standings with a 24-4 mark, while the Wildcats were second with a 19-6-3 record. Saskatoon won all four head-to-head regular season meetings between the two clubs, but the all of those encounters came before Dec. 1, 2015.
    Game 2 of the SFMAAAHL championship series is set for Wednesday in Swift Current for a 7 p.m. start at the Fairview Arena. Game 3 will be in Saskatoon on Thursday for a 6:15 p.m. start at the Agriplace Arena.

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