Wildcats complete playoff sweep

Steven Mah
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Kirwan scores winner in double overtime, Book makes 31 saves

Swift Current Wildcats

The Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats clinched their first Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League playoff series win since 2009 with a three-game sweep of the Saskatoon Stars.

The Wildcats completed the sweep with a 1-0 double overtime win in Saskatoon Sunday. Defenseman Kayla Kirwan was the overtime hero when her point shot beat a screened Karlee Fetch 17 seconds into the second overtime period. The two teams had combined for 57 shots on net without a goal in over 70 minutes before Kirwan ended the series with an assist from captain Brooklyn Haubrich.

"It is nice to get the sweep," said head coach Terry Pavely during the bus ride home. "It allows us to get a little rest before we find out who we play next. I think the girls are pretty excited. Any time you win a game at any level in overtime is a big win, but then also to win the series is pretty exciting."

Jasey Book stopped all 31 shots she faced for the shutout in her third win of the playoffs. Book leads all goaltenders in the playoffs with a 0.63 goals against average and a .974 save percentage. "We are definitely excited," said Book. "It means a lot to get the sweep."

The Wildcats had won game one 2-1 in Saskatoon and then defeated the Stars 4-1 in Swift Current Saturday.

"We knew what we needed to do," explained Book. "We just kept competing until the end and never gave up and took it battle by battle and hoped for the best."

The Wildcats opened the playoffs with a 2-1 win over the host Stars Wednesday. Book made 24 saves to help stake the Wildcats to an early series lead.

The Wildcats fell behind when Julia Rongve scored for the Stars only 2:24 into regulation. The Wildcats tied the game with 2:39 left in the first period when veteran Karlie Bell scored a powerplay goal with an assist from rookie Kate Scidmore.

Scidmore score the eventual game winner only 2:56 into the second period with an assist from Haubrich.

The Wildcats took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series Saturday when they scored twice into an empty net to earn a 4-1 win over the visiting Stars. Scidmore led the Wildcats with three points and Book made 19 saves.

The Wildcats trailed 1-0 after Brittany Heuchert scored late in the first period for Saskatoon.

Scidmore fired home a shot low to the glove side of Emma Johnson to tie the game with 13:59 left in the second period. Danya Winzer shoveled home a rebound only 3:38 later to put the Wildcats ahead for good. Haubrich added an empty net goal to give the Wildcats some breathing room and Scidmore added another empty net goal for good measure.

Gabrielle Gray had two assists and Jessica Pele added a single in the win.

Pavely said it was a team effort to get the win Saturday.

"We know that not everybody is going to get a goal or an assist, but right now we are asking all of our kids to make sure they make an impact, whether it is one shift that they get or 10 shifts. You have to make an impact when you are out there and it looked like everybody made an impact tonight and that's what we need."

The Wildcats had been bounced from the playoff in the first round the past four seasons. “You feel really good for a few of our girls, kind of when we were going through the retooling or rebuilding process, we lost a heartbreaker in game five last year against Weyburn. You hope that you build and learn from those things and I thought we did. It was really nice to see our veteran kids get rewarded winning the first series this year,” said Pavely.

The Wildcats only allowed two goals in three playoff games to Saskatoon. “Well they were just working really hard at keeping them to the outside. They didn’t really get a lot of shots off,” said Book of her team’s effort in front of her.

“It was pretty good team defense as a group,” explained Pavely. “That starts with our goaltender and our D. We are pretty tough to play against. We have five D who skate really well. We have learned to tighten our gaps defensively in our zone. Our wingers are doing a good job and our centremen support the D really well. When we do give up shots it seems like a lot of them are from the outside and we have done a good job of clearing rebounds from the front of the net, getting them to the wall, not throwing them up the middle, and not giving teams a tonne of second opportunities.”

The Wildcats had struggled mightily to get points on the road during the regular season before winning twice in Saskatoon in the post-season.

“I just think that we were able to build on the fact that we did get better on the road as the season progressed. The other thing was just starting from scratch after the regular season. If we play the style of hockey that we need to play, which is good defensive hockey, getting pucks deep, forecheck hard, and cycle, it doesn’t matter where we play we are going to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Pavely.

He said they stuck to their game plan as the season progressed.

“It seemed like early on we got into some track meets. We kind of played up and down, north and south hockey and that doesn’t suit our team really well. The second half and in the playoffs we really stuck to our style, tried to cycle the puck, play in the other team’s end, get a little bit more possession in the offensive zone and it worked out pretty well for us.”

The Wildcats will now await their second-round opponent with the top seeded Regina Rebels the most likely candidate.

The Rebels finished first in the regular season with a 24-2-1-1 record and the line of Chelsea Perepeluk, Emma Waldenberger, and Delaney Frey were the top three scorers in the league with 165 points in 28 games, accounting for almost 57 percent of their team’s goals. 

“Regina is a really skilled hockey team and their number one line is really dynamic. The key for us is going to be to shut that line down. They have the three of them all on one line. If we can play good defensive hockey with whatever unit we decide to play against them then we have a pretty good chance.”

The Wildcats lost all four games to Regina in the regular season but they were in every game, including two one-goal games in February, one that was decided in a shootout.

“That’s what happened in the games we played against them, all four were really tight. We did a very good job against their top line… If you can shut down that first line you have an opportunity.

“The big thing against Regina is you have to be disciplined. They have a very potent powerplay. Throughout the regular season they would often go three-for-five, two-for-five on the powerplay. They were just beating a lot of teams scoring a lot of powerplay goals,” Pavely added.

“We just need to have faith in each other. We need to work as a team and win our battles and stay confident,” added Book.

 

Organizations: Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, Swift Current Wildcats, Saskatoon Stars SFMAAAHL

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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