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Bantam Bearcats mind the gap

N. Veerman photo

N. Veerman photo

The Jasper Bantam Bearcats played a home and away series last weekend against two teams that could not have provided a greater contrast in on-ice action.

Our Bantam kids are in the strangest division in the Sturgeon Pembina hockey league. It is almost as if the league decided to throw some AAA franchises into the mix so that the appropriately tiered “B” teams could feel the sting of certain humiliation almost every weekend. There seems to be an impossible span of abilities among teams in this league, and Jasper experienced this gap during Saturday and Sunday’s games.

On Saturday, the Bearcats travelled to Whitecourt to face off against the 2 and 6 Bantam Wolverines. Whitecourt certainly has a feisty team and a deep bench that should compete well against the Bearcats who were short-staffed on Saturday, icing only nine skaters and a goalie. But it was Jasper who would produce the early pressure, and strike first halfway through the opening period, as Hunter Zenner poked in a loose puck in front of the net. Whitecourt would equalize about a minute later however and with less than two minutes left in the first period, take advantage of some sloppy Bearcat play to net three more goals to end the period with a 4–1 lead.

But sometimes in games like this, goals come in bunches, and within five minutes of the start of the second period, the Bearcat goal-getters, Brenden Auger and Rhys Malcolm, had combined to tie the game. Before the mid-point of the game, Auger would turn this into a lead using his howitzer from the hash marks, for his third goal and Jasper’s second lead of the game.

The Wolverines would score once more against Jasper goaltender, Severin Golla before the end of the second period, but Auger would answer with another hattrick, and Bennett Paultzat would add one more to put Jasper up by four goals, 9–5 at the second intermission.

In the third period, Kolby Kongsrud’s shorthanded goal would seal the deal for the Bearcats as Jasper’s defense, led by the very steady Crimson Derbowka, prevented any serious Whitecourt comeback. Final score stood at 10–7 Jasper, for the Bearcats’ fifth win on the season.

On Sunday, the ueber-dominant Mayerthorpe Mustangs rolled into Jasper looking to preserve their perfect 14–0 record. This team has simply steamrolled every other team in the league, giving up less than two goals a game, while posting more than 12 on average. And this game would be about average, as the Bearcats would fall 15–1 after 60 minutes of lopsided play.

Giving up 15 goals, it would seem odd to highlight Jasper’s defensive play, but with most of the game in the defensive zone, blueliners Nathan Howes, Drew Tank, Kongsrud and Derbowka put on a lot of miles skating backwards, and mounted a truly valiant effort against Mayerthorpe’s wheeling forwards. Don’t forget Bearcat goaltender Golla, who faced 57 shots, stopping 42 of them, many in spectacular fashion. Jasper’s lone goal came off the stick of Walter Ostrander in the third period, to the delight of the Bearcat supporters who were eager for even a little redemption in this game that couldn’t have been a lot of fun for either side.

The Bearcats play another home and away series this weekend. They are on the road in Hinton on Saturday and then host Wabasca on Sunday, 1:15 p.m. at the Jasper Arena.

See you at the rink.

John Wilmshurst
Special to the Fitzhugh

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