Will the third time be a charm for the Pembina Valley Hawks?
For the third consecutive season Pembina Valley will represent Manitoba at the West Regional after winning the Manitoba Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship, sweeping aside the Winnipeg Avros in the league final.
The Hawks hope to do two things this year they weren’t able in either of their first two regional appearances – win a game and advance to the Esso Cup; Pembina Valley was swept in two straight by Notre Dame in both 20.
After eliminating the Yellowhead Chiefs and Winnipeg Ice in the quarter-finals and semifinals, respectively – outscoring the opposition 32-8 in six straight wins – the Hawks came up against the Avros, the only team that kept pace with Pembina Valley during the regular season; the Hawks were first with an 18-1-1 record, slightly ahead of Winnipeg’s 16-3-1 mark, while Pembina Valley scored 97 goals and allowed 28, not far off the Avros’ 93 and 32.
On paper, it appeared Pembina Valley was no match for the Avros in the series, outscoring Winnipeg 16-2, but a closer look at the stats tells a different story; the Avros actually outshot the Hawks in each of the three games, and only the play of Pembina Valley netminder Brittni Mowat kept Winnipeg from cracking the win column.
In Game 1, Jessica Kaminsky scored three times and added two assists to lead the Hawks to a 9-0 victory in a game Pembina Valley was on the short end of a 39-32 shot total, and Mowat’s 30-save shutout performance was the difference in a 2-0 win in Game 2.
“It was a gutsy road win for our team, and by no means was it pretty, but we got the job done and we have a chance to close the series out at home,” said Pembina Valley head coach Jeff Andrews after Game 2. “Britt was the reason we got the win. She stole one for us with timely saves and great rebound control. Anytime you play with a short bench on the road in the playoffs you need good goaltending and that was the case tonight.”
With the Avros on the ropes they finally found a way to beat Mowat in Game 3, ending her shutout streak at just over 153 minutes, but a hat trick from Cassidy Carels led Pembina Valley to a 5-2 win and the league title, despite Winnipeg holding a 44-36 advantage in shots.
In total, Mowat stopped 112 of 114 shots in the final, and finished the playoffs with a 1.25 goals against average in eight games. Offensively, Lauren Keen led the way with 19 points (11G, 8A), just ahead of Carels, who had 17 (10G, 7A).
The Hawks now await the winner of the Saskatchewan final between Notre Dame and Saskatoon to find out who they’ll face in the West Regional.