Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Sweet title sweep for Bears

P.A. turns tables on Stars from 2015, wins Fedoruk Cup

Bears captain Brooke Hobson holds the Fedoruk Cup during a team picture.
    Winning a league championship was all that much more sweet for Brooke Hobson, because she remember all too well what it was like to be on the other side.
    The captain for the Prince Albert Northern Bears has way too many bad memories about how tough it was to be swept out of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series losing the series clinching game to the host Saskatoon Stars at the Agriplace Arena two years ago. 
    Fast forward to Tuesday night and Hobson and her Bears were back at the Agriplace Arena in the SFMAAAHL final looking to sweep away the Stars, who were the two-time defending league champs.
    The Bears pulled out a 4-2 victory to sweep the best-of-five series 3-0 and capture the Fedoruk Cup for the second time in team history before a packed house. Prince Albert last won the SFMAAAHL title back in 2009.
Captain Brooke Hobson is the Bears grizzled vet.
    “It is awesome,” said Hobson. “This is my fifth year trying to run for the title and getting it in my last year definitely means a lot to me.
    “I have been working hard since my first day on this team, and this finally came to pay off here. The emotions are definitely flipped upside down here from losing. Having beat the team that beat us that last year we were in the finals definitely means a lot.”
    Hobson, who was a member of Canada’s under-18 women’s team, is the most battled hardened out of all the Bears players. The 17-year-old defender, who is in her final season of midget eligibility, has appeared in a team record 128 regular season games piling up 41 goals and 45 assists. She has appeared in an SFMAAAHL record 46 playoffs games posting five goals and 24 assists.
    In Game 3 on Tuesday, Hobson had a key role in manufacturing her side’s biggest goal of the season. With the Bears locked in a 2-2 draw with the Stars in the third period, Hobson fed a pass to forward Jasper Desmarais to spring a two-on-one break.
    Desmarais fed a perfect pass across the front of the Saskatoon net to linemate Camryn Amundson, who calmly tucked home the championship winner at the 12:19 mark of the frame.
Brooklyn Anderson jets up ice for the Bears.
    “She (Amundson) comes out shinning whenever we need her,” said Hobson. “I am super proud of her and my whole team. She is awesome.”
    Amundson, who is in her second season with the Bears, was pumped to be the finisher on what she thought was some great work by her teammates.
    “It was the perfect pass,” said Amundson. “Jasper (Desmarais) gave me the perfect pass, and if I missed it, I would have been so disappointed.”
    “It wasn’t that great of a shot, but it snuck through. I am just glad it did.”
    The Stars came out with the big jump, when forward Brooke Hausermann scored at the 3:21 mark of the first period on her team’s third shot of the contest to give Saskatoon a 1-0 lead. The hosts held a 10-5 edge in shots over the opening 20 minutes and carried the majority of the play over that time.
    Momentum changed early in the second, when Bears standout forward Abby Soyko scored in her team’s first shot of the period to tie things up a 1-1 just 2:27 in. Brooklyn Anderson proceeded to put the Bears ahead 2-1 scoring just 2:07 after Soyko’s goal.
    Saskatoon regrouped before the second period ended. During a net scramble with 3:24 to play, Jordyn Gerlitz scored to put the Stars on even terms with the Bears at 2-2.
Hannah Koroll (#20) makes a clear for the Bears.
    That set the stage for the play that resulted in Amundson’s series winner. Jadyn Kushniruk added an empty-net tally with 24.7 seconds to play to round out the scoring for the Bears.
    Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby, who is in his sixth season guiding the team as head coach, was proud to see his players win the SFMAAAHL title and quietly admitted it felt good from a personal standpoint.
    “It is like you built a big building,” said Willoughby. “It has been a long time coming.
    “We have seven girls that played in this final two years ago. We had 11 girls that lost a heartbreaker last year in the semifinals.
    “We’ve had our chance to be on the other side, the losing side, so we know what it feels like. It makes this win special.”
    Ryan Fontaine turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Bears, who posted a perfect 9-0 record in the SFMAAAHL playoffs. Jordan Ivanco stopped 22-of-25 shots to take the loss in net for the Stars.
Alli Soyko (#22) enjoys victory with a couple of her Bears teammates.
    Willoughby said his players did a good job playing as a unit of five throughout the series, which helped put the Bears in favourable situations.
    “I think from the first game it was our plan to make sure we tried to match them five-on-five, don’t over pursue pucks and cause two-on-one situations for them,” said Willoughby. “I think the girls were resilient doing that.
    “They were consistent, and I think that was the biggest factor.”
    The Bears will now host a best-of-three Western regional playdown series against the Westman Wildcats, who play out of Hartney, Man. Game 1 of that series is set for March 31 at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

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