For the second straight year a Prince Albert team’s hopes of winning the prestigious Mac’s Invitational midget championship in Calgary has been stalled in the semifinals.
Last year, the Mintos reached the final four in the male division before bowing out to the UFA Bisons from Calgary while this year the A&W Bears were denied a spot in the championship game of the female division when they were eliminated with a 5-2 setback to the Saskatoon Stars on Monday.
The Bears entered the semifinal match against the Stars with a 2-0-2 record in preliminary round-robin action and they held a 2-1 lead entering the final period against Saskatoon, before their run came to an unceremonious end.
Kelly Regnier, the leading scorer in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, and Breanne Neudorf had staked the Bears to the slim advantage after 40 minutes of play. Penalty problems in the final period proved costly, however, as the Stars capitalized with two power-play tallies and sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
Jessica Vance made 35 saves in the Prince Albert goal with almost half of those coming in the final 20 minutes when the Bears played shorthanded for a large portion of the period. Vance was named the star of the game for her efforts.
It was the Bears’ first loss of the season to the Stars as Prince Albert had defeated their Saskatoon rivals once in a pre-season game and twice more in league play. The two will next meet on Jan. 19 when they take part in the inaugural Outdoor Classic to be held at the Crescent Heights Arena.
Bears’ captain Kaitlin Willoughby was selected to the tournament’s first all-star team in the female division and Lexi Van Camp was presented with one of the three $1,500 scholarships that were awarded.
Van Camp was the Prince Albert player selected to enter the scholarship competition and after going through an interview earlier in the week and submitting an essay on what hockey means to her, the 17-year-old from Melfort was awarded the scholarship to assist with future post-secondary studies.
The Stars, who have Prince Albert product Karlee Fetch on their roster, were to take on the Edmonton Thunder in the championship game. It was the Stars’ second championship final appearance in three years after Saskatoon won it all in 2010.
The male division had the Carolina Hurricanes facing the Vancouver Giants in the gold-medal game. The Mintos were 0-3-1 in preliminary round-robin action and failed to qualify for the playoff round.