Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Stars build SFMAAAHL dynasty, win fourth Fedoruk Cup in last five years

Anna Leschyshyn, right, lifts the Fedoruk Cup, while Ashley Messier cheers.
    It felt like it was just a matter of time before the Saskatoon Stars championship pedigree was going to rise to the surface.
    On Tuesday, the Stars were looking to sweep the best-of-five Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Championship series in a Game 3 clash against the Regina Rebels at Merlis Belsher Place. The host Stars seemed to start a little slow coming out of the gate, and the Rebels held a slight edge in play holding a 10-8 edge in shots on goal over the first 20 minutes.
    At that point, the Stars hit another gear.
    Just nine seconds into the second period, Stars star veteran winger Anna Leschyshyn blew home a power-play goal to the top corner of the Regina goal to give the Stars a 1-0 advantage.
Anna Leschyshyn had the Stars first goal on Tuesday.
    The Rebels evened things at 1-1 just 29 second later on a goal from 15-year-old forward Neena Brick, who was the SFMAAAHL’s rookie of the year this season.
    Saskatoon responded with two goals before the second frame ended to go up 3-1 and cruised to a 3-2 victory.
    With the win, the Stars swept the SFMAAAHL title series 3-0 and captured the Fedoruk Cup as league champions for the fourth time in the last five years.
    “It is obviously really special,” said Stars veteran captain Grace Shirley. “We’ve kind of been working for this ever since the beginning of the season.
    “It is really awesome that we could get the win. It is pretty special, because it is my last year. I kind of wanted to go out of the league on a winning note.
Neena Brick scored for the Rebels on Tuesday.
    “It is obviously super special, and I’m excited for what’s next.”
    When the Rebels evened the game up at 1-1, the Stars didn’t get rattled. They controlled the majority of the play for the rest of the contest.
    At the 4:12 mark of the second, Shirley put the Stars ahead 2-1 when her seemingly innocent backhand shot had eyes and found its way past Rebels netminder Chantel Weller.
    Shirley said her goal was a lucky one, but despite the luck, her team found its edge offensively.
    “I think started just like playing our game offensively and getting shots and chances,” said Shirley. “Once we started to do that, they started to go in for us, so it was good.”
Captain Grace Shirley had a goal for the Stars on Tuesday.
    With 1:37 remaining in the second period, rookie forwards Halle Helperl and Kaylee Baun teamed up to set up 17-year-old veteran linemate Kaitlin Jockims for a goal to put the Stars up 3-1.
    The Rebels were held to just two shots on goal in the third period, but one of those shots resulted in a goal from veteran 17-year-old forward Samantha Sichkaruk that cut the Stars lead to 3-2 with 8:50 remaining in the frame.
    During the dying seconds of the third, the Rebels had a huge chance to tie the game, but a final desperate shot by Brick from in close on the left side of the Saskatoon goal went just wide of its mark.
    Rookie Stars forward Haylee Kos, who turned 15-years-old in early February, said her team’s confidence was still high even after the Rebels closed to within 3-2.
    “There was a little bit of nervousness, because we got so close,” said Kos. “I think we all had some pretty good composure.
Sydney Pedersen brings the puck up ice for the Rebels.
    “We kept our defence up.”
    When the third period clock hit zero, Kos said she screamed and jumped over the boards as fast as she could to celebrate with her teammates. She said this was a dream moment during her journey in her rookie campaign.
    “It is absolutely incredible,” said Kos. “It was a little bit chaotic at first adjusting to everything, but I think once I got used to it, it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
    Arden Kliewer made 15 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Weller turned away 24 shots to take the setback in net for the Rebels.
    Saskatoon finished first in the SFMAAAHL regular season with a 27-1 mark, which was the best record the team ever posted in regular season play. Regina was second with a 17-7-4 record.
The Stars begin celebrating their SFMAAAHL title win.
    Greg Slobodzian has guided the Stars to all four of their SFMAAAHL title victories as head coach. 
    The Stars claimed the league crown in 2015, 2016 and last season. He said it is always special to finish as the top team in the province and that all of the Stars SFMAAAHL championship victories had equal meaning.
    “They are all great,” said Slobodzian. “This one is really nice, because you’re with this group of girls for so long, like the other ones too.
    “We’ve got a pretty big graduating class this year. We’ve got some young girls here that I am so happy that they get a chance to experience this. They are all great.
The crowd at Merlis Belsher Place salutes the Stars for their title win.
    “This one is just like all the other ones. I’m going to be enjoying it for a long time.”
    The Stars will now host the Manitoba female midget AAA champion Westman Wildcats from Hartney in a best-of-three Western regional playdown series. The dates and times of that series are still to be announced. It is expected the series will start around April 5.
    The winner of that series advances to the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament to be held April 21 to 27 in Sudbury, Ont.
The Stars pose for the traditional team championship photo.
    Saskatoon has advanced to the Esso Cup the three previous times it has won the SFMAAAHL title.
    Shirley is pumped to get the chance to play in another regional playdown series.
    “It is awesome,” said Shirley. “I think any time you get to play more games it is good.
    “I think we are just going to keep getting better and see where that takes us.”

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