Summer is officially over for the Prince Albert A&W Bears as the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League club will be holding its fall training camp this weekend at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Bears are coming off a successful 2012-13 season in which they set a franchise record for points (41) and made it to the league final before falling to the Regina Rebels.
Prince Albert will have to unearth some offensive weapons, however, as their top two scorers from last year have moved on to play at the university level. Kelly Regnier, who had 23 goals and 19 assists in 27 games, is now with the University of Regina Cougars while Kaitlin Willoughby, who played parts of five seasons with the club and had 10 goals and 23 assists in her final campaign, will suit up for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Bears will also lose Lexi Van Camp, Megan Sloboshan, Sydney Beckman and Sarah Olson due to graduation leaving the club with a number of positions to fill.
Key returning players are a trio who have been named to the Top 25 roster for Team Saskatchewan after a series of tryout camps this spring and summer. Goaltender Jessica Vance and defensemen Brooke Hobson and Morgan Willoughby are still in the hunt for a spot on the provincial team that will compete at the national under-18 championship in Calgary in November.
Vance is entering her fourth season with the Bears and has a 2.84 goals-against-average in 50 starts while Willoughby will be looking to follow older sister Kaitlin’s footsteps as the elder Willoughby was on the provincial squad in each of the last two years. Hobson is back with the Bears for a second season after having a strong rookie campaign as a 13-year-old last year.
Crystal Berube will be looked upon for leadership this year as she will be playing her fourth and final season with the Bears while Breanne Neudorf and Amy Weightman will also provide veteran leadership as both are beginning their third seasons with the Bears. Tylor Lindsay, the team’s third-leading scorer last year when she was a 15-year-old rookie, will likely be given additional offensive responsibilities and Aleece Anderson returns for a second season to help solidify a strong defensive corp.
Changes for the Bears won’t be limited to just on the ice as Gord Hobson will be a new assistant coach to Jeff Willoughby, the two-time coach of the year in the SFMAAAHL. Jerome Mrazek will also be back behind the bench helping the team for a seventh season.
Approximately 40 players will be attending the two-day camp with the first practises beginning at noon on Saturday. Fitness testing will dominate the latter part of the afternoon on the first day with the first scrimmage set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
The players will then have another practise session beginning at 9 a.m. on Sunday with the annual Black and White intrasquad game set to go at 1 p.m. on Sunday, also at the Art Hauser Centre.
Following the camp the Bears will have a couple weeks of practises before they head to Swift Current for a pre-season tournament on Sept. 6-8. The one and only exhibition game at home will be played on Sept. 12 when the Saskatoon Stars will make a visit to the Art Hauser Centre. The regular season begins on Sept. 28 when Prince Albert will host the Weyburn Gold Wings.