Friday, 23 March 2018

Stars power play too hot for Bears in Game 1

Saskatoon downs Prince Albert 5-3 in SFMAAAHL finals opener

Mackenna Parker, right, hugs a teammate after scoring on the power play.
    The Saskatoon Stars power play was on fire, and that spelled trouble for the Prince Albert Northern Bears.
    On Friday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Stars cashed in on all three of their power play opportunities to down the Bears 5-3 in the opening game of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series. The best-of-five series shifts to Prince Albert for Game 2 on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
    In Friday’s encounter, the Stars final three goals all came on the power play with star centre Grace Shirley scoring twice and star captain Mackenna Parker getting the other goal with the numbers advantage.
    “I feel like just going into it we were kind of all on the same page,” said Shirley about the power-play success. “We were talking in between shifts just like making sure that we all knew what we were doing out there.
    “We just worked hard when we were out there, and things went our way.”
Joelle Fiala had the Stars first goal on Friday.
    Joelle Fiala and Anna Leschychyn both scored for the Stars at even strength to give the host side a 2-0 lead in the first period.
    At the 12:13 mark of the second, defender Ashley Messier fed the puck down low to Shirley at the right side of the Prince Albert goal, and she sniped her first marker past Bears netminder Ryan Fontaine.
    After the Bears cut the Stars lead to 3-2, Shirley struck again on the power play at the 3:50 mark of the third taking a beauty feed from Leschyshyn in the left slot and burying her second goal of the contest to give the Stars a 4-2 lead.
    Shirley said the play of her teammates was the reason she was able to score twice.
    “They were both just really good passes,” said Shirley. “The first one Ashley (Messier) just made a really good pass, and I had time to shoot. It was just kind of a lucky goal that went in there.
    “The second one Anna (Leschyshyn) obviously just like made a really nice pass and found me in the slot. It was just great plays.”
Stars captain Mackenna Parker eludes Bears defender Jordan Ashe.
    The Bears, who enter the series as defending SFMAAAHL champions, always kept battling back ensuring no Stars lead was safe.
    After Shirley netted her first goal to give the Stars a 3-0 lead, Bears star winger Abby Soyko responded with a goal just 1:27 later to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 3-1.
    Before the second period ended, the Bears further trimmed to Stars edge to 3-2, when Jadyn Kushniruk passed the puck across the front of the Saskatoon net from the left wing and linemate Camryn Amundson tapped the puck into an empty right side of the goal.
Abby Soyko had the Bears first goal on Friday.
    When Shirley scored her second power-play marker in the third to give the Stars a 4-2 edge, Bears winger Jasper Desmarais responded just 60 second later to trim the Saskatoon lead to 4-3.
    With 5:41 to play in the third, Leschyshyn found Parker with a backdoor feed, and the Stars captain fired home a power-play goal to round out the scoring in the contest. Shirley also picked up an assist on Parker’s goal for a three-point night.
    “Obviously, they are a good team,” said Shirley. “No matter how much you are up, they are always going to go hard.
    “It is important that we play a whole 60 minutes, because we know they are going to do the same.”
    The Bears got on the power play with 1:54 to play in the third, and they pulled Fontaine with a minute to play to get a six-on-four advantage with the number of skaters on the ice. Prince Albert wasn’t able to find any more offence.
    Jordan Ivanco turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Fontaine turned away 30 shots to take the setback in goal for the Bears.
The Stars celebrate their Game 1 series win.
    The Bears failed to score on their two power-play chances.
    While Prince Albert swept last year’s SFMAAAHL championship series 3-0, the Stars won the league title in 2015 and 2016.
    Saskatoon swept Prince Albert 3-0 in the 2015 SFMAAAHL championship series.
    Shirley was pleased her team could take Game 1 this year and against the Bears.
    “It was a good feeling to get the first one,” said Shirley. “We just have to focus on the next game and just keep playing hard.”
    After Game 2 on Sunday in Prince Albert wraps up, the two teams will play in Game 3 on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Agriplace Arena.

Sophie Shirley named CWHL rookie of the year

    Saskatoon Stars alumna Sophie Shirley took home a big honour at the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s annual awards show on Friday.
    The skilled 18-year-old centre was named the CWHL’s rookie of the year after a solid campaign with the Calgary Inferno. Shirley recorded eight goals and 11 assists in 26 regular season games to help the Inferno finish third in the seven-team league with a 17-7-1-3 mark, while also finishing third in team scoring.
    The Saskatoon product, who has been part of Canada’s under-18 women’s team and Canada’s national women’s development team, has committed to join the University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team next season. Sophie is Grace Shirley’s older sister.

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