A strong pre-season has the Prince Albert A&W Bears excited for the games to start counting in the standings.
The Bears won their fifth exhibition game ‚Äď to go with just one loss ‚Äď when they skated to a 3-1 decision over the Saskatoon Stars in Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League action on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
It was the first test against a league opponent as the previous contests on the pre-season schedule were all in Alberta and Prince Albert coach Jeff Willoughby was happy with what he saw.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre pretty happy with the performance,‚ÄĚ said Willoughby. ‚ÄúI thought we played better at NAIT (Alberta tournament the Bears attended last weekend) at times. I know we have got more than that, but it feels pretty good to beat them (Saskatoon).‚ÄĚ
The Bears are looking to improve on last season where they were just .500 in the regular campaign (12-12-1-3), but reached the semifinals before falling to the eventual league champion Notre Dame Hounds. Willoughby says this early run of success will go a long way in pointing the club in the right direction.
‚ÄúIt gives the girls a lot of confidence,‚ÄĚ says Willoughby. ‚ÄúWe lost a lot of close games last year at the beginning of the year so it is nice to turn things around.‚ÄĚ
Shaylyn Constant, Amy Weightman and Kelly Regnier scored for Prince Albert in Saturday‚Äôs win with Jessica Vance and Sarah Olson splitting the netminding duties. Vance was perfect in stopping all 18 shots she faced while Olson had one of 20 blasts directed her way slip past her. For Vance, the third-year veteran at the young age of 15, the pre-season has been nothing short of spectacular as she has allowed just one goal in three-plus games.
The Bears, who have eight new faces in the line-up, will have one more exhibition game to get accustomed to playing with each other and overcome any jitters when they travel to Saskatoon on Sept. 26 for a rematch with the Stars.
The regular season opens on Sept. 29 with the Bears hosting the Weyburn Gold Wings in a weekend doubleheader. The game on Sept. 29 starts at 7:30 p.m. with the Sept. 30 match slated for a 1:30 p.m. opening face-off. Both games will be played at the Art Hauser Centre.