It’s de ja vu all over again!
Legendary New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra coined the phrase, but the Prince Albert A&W Bears are hoping to experience it as they try and claw their way back into the championship final of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
The Bears have their backs against the proverbial wall as they fell 2-1 to the Regina Rebels on Wednesday at the Art Hauser Centre and now trail the best-of-five final series 2-0.
“The hockey gods were not on our side today,” said Bears’ head coach Jeff Willoughby after the heart-breaking loss. “It’s 2009 all over again.”
Four years ago to the day, on Mar. 20, 2009, the Bears were in their only previous provincial final, that time against the Swift Current Wildcats. After losing the first game in Swift Current, Prince Albert lost 2-1 on home ice that night and needed to win the final three games to claim the championship.
Guess what? That is exactly what happened.
This year’s final series is playing out in exactly the same fashion, but it is going to take a consistent 60-minute effort when the series resumes on Tuesday for the Bears to extend their season and hope to have a repeat performance of four years ago.
“We just told the girls that in the dressing room, that we are inching ourselves closer,” said Willoughby. “It’s a best-of-five and Regina hasn’t done anything but win two games.”
Prince Albert started Wednesday’s game a little tentatively and it cost them as regular-season scoring leader Hannah Heisler scored an unassisted marker midway through the opening session. From that point on the Bears took control of the play and as time moved on it was obvious they were finally going to get one past Rebels’ netminder Tatum Shand.
That happened seven minutes into the final stanza when Lexi Van Camp pounced on a loose puck after a goal-mouth scramble, giving the Bears even more jump in their step.
An unfortunate bounce with four minutes to play, however, had a Delaney Frey shot squirt into the Prince Albert goal and the Bears couldn’t get another equalizer.
Jessica Vance finished the game with 22 saves in the Prince Albert goal while Shand had 26 stops in the Regina net.
The teams will take a six-day break to accommodate the SaskFirst camp this weekend in Regina with Game 3 to be played on Tuesday. That will be the first step in trying to bring back the past.
“We’ll be back here,” predicted Willoughby.
Should the Bears win on Tuesday, something no team did all season in Regina, Game 4 will be on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.