ESTEVAN - The Estevan Bearcats 2 are the champions of the U11 A age group in the Saskatchewan Female Hockey League (SFHL).
The Bearcats 2 defeated Kindersley’s Western Prairie Klippers 3-1 Sunday in the league final in Weyburn. The win capped a tremendous season for the ‘Cats, who went 18-2 in the regular season and finished first in the East Division.
For the tournament, the top two teams in the East and West Divisions were slotted in the A pool for a round robin, and the third and fourth place teams were in the B event.
The Bearcats opened with a 5-3 win over the Weyburn Goldwings. Jorja Rutledge and Hunter Sands each scored twice and Abigail Jutras also scored.
Their next game was an 8-2 win over the Battlefords Sharks. Sands had three goals, Jutras scored twice, and Rutledge, Hunter Istace and Rowan Grimes also scored.
Their final round-robin game was a 3-2 defeat against the Klippers, who went 20-0 during the regular season. Rutledge and Everleigh Blanchette scored to give the ‘Cats a 2-1 lead, but the Klippers stormed back with two goals late in the game.
In the league final, the Klippers continued their momentum early, taking a 1-0 lead 15 seconds into the game.
“We had the girls prepped and ready to go, and the Klippers came out and scored 15 seconds into the game,” said Hammett. “It was extremely nerve-wracking. The girls did a great job of controlling their emotions and shaking it off.”
The Bearcats 2 played great defensive hockey the rest of the way in front of goaltender Madelyn Stead, outshooting the Klippers 30-12.
Rutledge tied the game at one five minutes after the opening goal, Zyla Hammett scored what turned out to be the game winner halfway through the first and Jutras added the insurance marker halfway through the second.
Hammett called it the best all-round effort of the season.
“We played so well defensively,” he said. “We didn’t give their top players any good looks at our net. We just played a really good defensive game and won the battles. The girls just really wanted it. You could tell.”
The Bearcats 2 played with consistency and demonstrated a strong work ethic, he said. Stead was in goal for all of their games.
Seven of the 14 players on the Bearcats are eligible to return next season. Hammett believes this experience will help the players as they continue to progress through female hockey in the region.
“Female hockey has come such a long way in Estevan, with the growth of our program. It’s just a testament to the commitment of the girls, winning this league championship. From where the girls started at the start of the year, to where we finished, there was so much improvement and commitment to hockey, it was just great to see. I definitely see some of our girls going on to bigger and better things.”
The Estevan Snechuk Bearcats 1 were in the B event. They lost 8-4 to the Weyburn Blizzard in the B final.
Their first game was a 4-1 win over the Swift Current Colts. Lexie Fonstad scored twice, and Olivia Walton and Peyton Saunders also had goals.
The next game was a 2-2 tie with the Milestone Flyers. Fonstad and Isla Roberts were the goal scorers.
The next game was a 5-3 win over the Colts. Brynley Rosengren finished with a hat trick, while Fonstad and Renesemee Thompson also scored.
In the B final, Roberts scored twice and Fonstad and Rosengren also scored.