SASKATCHEWAN ADVANCES TO FIRST GOLD MEDAL GAME
MORDEN, Man. – Powered by one-goal-and-two-assist performances from Neena Brick (Regina, Sask.) and Lauren Focht (Regina, Sask.), Saskatchewan edged Ontario Blue 3-1 in the first semifinal at the 2019 National Women’s Under-18 Championship on Friday. This win advances Saskatchewan to its first appearance in the gold medal game. The best showing for the prairie province before this year was a fourth-place finish at the 2017 tourney in Quebec City, Que. Saskatchewan will either face Ontario Red, the four-time defending champion, or Quebec in the gold medal game on Saturday in Winkler, Man. (4 p.m. CT). Arden Kliewer (Saskatoon, Sask.) helped vault her province to its maiden championship appearance with a 25-save afternoon, while Jessie McPherson (Chatham, Ont.) stopped 20 of 22 shots in defeat. In the opening 20 minutes, Ontario Blue and Saskatchewan each lived up to its reputation for playing sterling defence. There was virtually zero daylight for players on either side to manufacture offence. Both Kliewer and McPherson easily parried aside the tests directed their way. Ontario Blue outshot Saskatchewan 9-4 in period one. Anna-Liese King (Regina, Sask.) broke the stalemate just 28 seconds into the second stanza by beating McPherson with a powerful blast from the left face-off circle. Celeste Beaudoin (Stouffville, Ont.) responded for Ontario Blue under four minutes later, deflecting in a Taylor Larsen (Bolton, Ont.) drive from the left point. Brick restored Saskatchewan’s lead just shy of the halfway point of the match with a wrist shot to the top of the right corner on an odd-man break after being sprung by a deft chip pass from Focht. Saskatchewan’s two-goal outburst in the second was spurred by its edge in puck possession. The prairie province outshot Ontario Blue 11-9. While Ontario Blue did manage a couple of looks in the third period, Saskatchewan maintained its defensive poise and cruised toward the finish line. Focht sent the Saskatchewan supporters into a frenzy with her empty-net goal with 1:40 remaining. Both teams netted eight shots in the final frame.