Saturday, 1 April 2017

Impressive epic comeback sends Bears to first Esso Cup

Prince Albert erases three-goal deficit in thrilling 7-6 victory

The Prince Albert Northern Bears celebrate their Western regional win.
    PRINCE ALBERT - In a comeback worthy of the Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s, the Prince Albert Northern Bears are bound for the Esso Cup for the first time in team history.
    On Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre, the Bears trailed the Hartney, Man., based Westman Wildcats 6-3 with 13:24 to play in the third period in Game 2 of a female midget AAA Western regional playdown series. It appeared the Wildcats were going to force the best-of-three set to a series deciding Game 3, which would have been played on Sunday.
    Cue the comeback. The Bears rallied back with four straight goals to pull out a 7-6 victory and sweep the series 2-0 to capture The Lanchbery Family Trophy.
Brooklyn Anderson (#7) scored the series winning goal for the Bears.
    Forward Brooklyn Anderson tipped home a point shot from defender Jordan Ashe for the game and series winning tally with two minutes to play in the third.
    With the win, the Bears earned a berth to the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament, which runs April 23 to 29 in Morden, Man.
    “It feels amazing,” said Anderson. “I know the team was really excited to get there.
    “We weren’t losing this. We wanted to get there, and we got there, so that is awesome.
    “I saw Jordan (Ashe) had it on the point, and I knew that I just needed to get in front of the net. It is exactly what I did, and it just went off my stick and in.”
    Anderson’s goal concluded what was a wild shootout of a contest. The Wildcats scored on their first two shots of the game to go ahead 2-0, but the Bears stormed back to take a 3-2 edge early in the second.
Ashton Bell, right, scored twice for the Wildcats.
    The visitors proceed to score four straight to go ahead 6-3, but the host Bears never gave up.
    At the 7:38 mark of the third, Bears forward Miranda Heidt slipped a pass across the front of the Westman goal to Prince Albert captain Brooke Hobson. Hobson potted the first tally in the rally to cut the Wildcats edge to 6-4.
    With 7:54 to play in the third, Hobson blasted home a point shot for her second goal of the game to pull the Bears to within 6-5. The hosts tied the contest with a power-play goal from star forward Abby Soyko with 3:13 remaining in the third. That set the stage for Anderson’s winner.
    “I just can’t believe the determination of these girls,” said Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby. “That is all it comes down to is their determination and want. It is incredible.”
Kate Ball breaks into the offensive zone for the Bears.
    Kate Ball, Camryn Amundson and Story Navrot also had singles for the Bears, while Brooklyn Elek made 24 stops to pick up the win in goal.
    Josee Casavant and Ashton Bell, who was the captain of Canada’s under-18 national women’s team, each scored twice for the Wildcats, while Camryn Clyne and Haley Wickham had singles. Kaitlyn Slator turned away 19 shots to take the loss in goal for the Wildcats.
    The Bears took Game 1 of the series 6-4 on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre. Willoughby, whose favourite NHL team happens to be the Oilers, was amazed the Bears and Wildcats combined to score 23 goals in two games considering playoff games at the female midget AAA level are usually tight 3-2 or 2-1 contests.
    “Both teams kind of just let it loose,” said Willoughby. “It was kind of run and gun and fun to play in and fun to coach. I’m sure all the fans got more than their money’s worth here.
Captain Brooke Hobson sparked the Bears rally with a pair of goals.
    “It was incredible to coach in I will say that first of all. There was lots of intensity on the bench.
    “The girls didn’t get down too low, didn’t get up too high. It was very good.”
    Hobson, who was also a member of Canada’s under-18 national women’s team, was proud of how her Bears rose to the challenge to rally back in Saturday’s series clincher.
    The 17-year-old defender said she went hard on the celebration of her first goal that started the rally to get her side fired up, and she believed the tactic worked.
    Playing in her final season of midget eligibility, Hobson was elated she will finally get to go to the Esso Cup in her fifth and last trip through the midget AAA post-season.
    Going into Esso Cup, the Bears are a perfect 11-0 in the post-season, and they have won 15 straight including action in the regular season.
The Bears pose for a team picture after winning the Western regional series.
    “It is an unbelievable feeling here we have here tonight,” said Hobson. “We’re definitely going to be looking forward to this in the next couple of weeks.
    “I’ve been waiting for this my whole five years, so now it has finally come, and it is pretty awesome. We have to keep the momentum going, and I think everything should turn out very good.”

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