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PeeWees close out regular season on a high note

Lucas Oeggerli works the corner against a player from the Stony Plain Predators. The Jasper PeeWee Bears won 4-1. Edi Klopfenstein photo.

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All that coaches ask of their players during the hockey season is that they try hard in practice and apply what they have learned during the games. This year coach Eric Bouchard of the Jasper PeeWee Bears has instilled this ethic in his team. There was a bit of a rocky start, but a little more than halfway through the season, the kids bought into this idea. Practices picked up energy and anyone attending their games were treated to the best passing, most disciplined team that this town ices. On Feb. 13 the Jasper PeeWee Bears headed to Edson to close out their season and their four-game season series with the first-place Mighty Macs.

If you recall from the last time these two teams met, Jasper lost mightily to the Mighty Macs in their first two meetings and tied them two weekends ago in a game that came within 43 seconds of a Bears victory. Tasting blood, the Bears were keen to take on Edson again to prove who was the better team once and for all.

Monday’s (Feb. 13) game took on a familiar arc. Jasper netminder Donovan Fawcett had a strong start, turning away all nine shots directed his way, while the Jasper snipers struggled to find their range early. It took 15 minutes of play for Bears’ power forward Baden Koss to find the seam, pick up a pass from centre Tanner Carlton and beat the big Edson netminder to open the scoring. Although the Bears didn’t manage a ton of shots in that period, just six, they were effectively moving the puck, and more importantly shutting down Edson’s big scorer who leads the league’s goals and point-scoring race by a wide margin.

The second period has not been Jasper’s best this season and Monday was no exception. Edson tied it up five minutes in with a shot that was deflected in front of the net and trickled in past Fawcett. Jasper was again struggling to get shots through, but the defensive corps led by Fawcett’s brother, Dexter were busy containing the league’s leading goal-getter. In the dying minutes of the middle frame, Sebastian Golla found Apollo Hardman in the slot and he made no mistake finding the back of the net. Jasper had regained their one-goal lead. But as the period was coming to an end, another tipped shot found a gap in Fawcett’s defensive shell and just like that, the game was tied going into the second intermission.

Nothing was settled going into the third. Experience shows that this is when Edson’s big guns come out, and so it would not only be up to Jasper’s goal-scorers to step up, but the defense would have to contain. And contain they did. Jacob Bartziokas was pinching off every rush and Michael Hayashi was gapping the Edson rush like a pro. But it was blueliner Owen Kearnan who made it all happen when he spotted Koss in behind the Edson defense and hit him with a stretch pass to spring him on a breakaway. Koss hammered the puck past the outstretched glove of the Mighty Mac goaltender and gave Jasper the lead back.

At his end of the ice, Donovan had a flawless third period, and the winger combinations of Janelle Tank, Nash Hilworth, Dylan Skinner and Henri LeClerc kept up the offensive pressure. Edson pulled the goalie with a minute to play, but with a skater in the box for holding, it was a desperate move to try and tie the game. When the final buzzer sounded, Jasper held a one-goal lead, handing Edson just their third defeat of the season and earning Jasper their first victory against this club and third place in the season’s standings.

That’s it for the regular season for the PeeWees. The team will begin its post-season run against Slave Lake on March 4 at 5:30 p.m. in Jasper. The team will return to the ice the following day at 11:00 a.m. See you in the stands!

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