Daily Herald Staff
Two of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s most successful franchises renew acquaintances on Saturday when the Prince Albert A&W Bears and Notre Dame Hounds lock horns in the opening game of their best-of-five quarter-final series at 1:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
Prior to last year’s dominating performance by the Regina Rebels, the only other two teams to capture the league championship were the Bears and Hounds. Prince Albert won its lone title in 2008-09 while Notre Dame laid claim to the Fedoruk Cup six times.
The Bears, who were finalists last year before losing to the powerful Rebel squad, finished in third place this season with a record of 15-7-3-3 and against the Hounds they were 2-1-0-1.
While the Bears were 20 points better in the standings than Notre Dame, this series is expected to be a battle as each team won once in each other’s rink during the four games they faced each other in the regular season. Two of the games were decided by a single tally and in the other two games the margin was three goals each time, but even those results were deceiving. In one game Prince Albert fired 44 shots at Kylee Styles in the Notre Dame goal in a 4-1 loss and in a 3-0 win the Bears were the team that was badly outshot.
Tylor Lindsay and Brooke Hobson, Prince Albert’s leading scorers in the regular season, also held the hottest hands against the Hounds as each collected three goals and added an assist in the four-game set. Kendra Winny, who was third in team scoring, also enjoyed a great deal of success against Notre Dame as the rookie winger notched a goal and three helpers. Jessica Lutz, Amy Weightman, Morgan Willoughby and Sierra Glass all recorded a pair of points against the Hounds.
The goaltending duties were split against Notre Dame with Shayla Youngman recording a win and a loss while Jessica Vance had a shutout win and a shootout loss. Vance, the 16-year-old phenom who has set a new league standard for minutes played and equalled the mark for career shutouts and games played, is expected to see the lion’s share of the work in the post-season.
Prince Albert and Notre Dame have not faced each other since Nov. 24 so there will likely be some tentative play to start the game especially since Saturday’s tilt will be the first taste of playoff hockey for 11 of the Bears. It will also be the playoff debut for eight members of the Hounds, who enter the playoffs on a five-game losing streak.
The series heads to Wilcox on Monday for Game 2 with the third match set for Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre. If necessary, Game 4 will be back in Notre Dame on Mar. 8 with a decisive fifth match to be played on Mar. 9 back in Prince Albert.
Other opening-round matches have the regular-season champion Rebels facing the Battlefords Sharks, Swift Current Wildcats have a 1-0 lead on the Saskatoon Stars and Weyburn Gold Wings will take on the Melville Prairie Fire.