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Northern Capitals advance to female U18 triple-A hockey provincial final

Caps punch their ticket to championship series against Fraser Valley Rush with pair of weekend wins over Vancouver Island

For two lost seasons, playoffs were a dream that evaporated in a pandemic fog for Ella Boon and the Northern Capitals.

Not so this year.

The Northern Capitals have one of the strongest teams they’ve had in years and they’re getting a chance to prove it in the B.C. Elite Hockey League U-18 female triple-A playoffs.

They capped off a two-game sweep of the Vancouver Island Seals with a 4-1 victory Saturday morning at Kin 2, picking up where they left Friday when the beat the Seals by the same score.

The series-clincher was much closer than score would indicate and Boon, the captain of the Capitals, was relieved a third game Sunday won’t be needed.

“It’s pretty exciting, I haven’t got to play in a playoff series (before this year), so I’m really excited,” said Boon, 18, a third-year Capital from Vanderhoof and one of the stalwarts on defence.

“It was a good battle and we stuck with it and I’m really proud of our girls for finishing strong and sealing the deal.”

Capitals defenceman Keagan Goulet, a Calgary Dinos’ university recruit, filled in at centre for Maria Ayre, who was serving a suspension this weekend, and put the Capitals ahead 17 seconds into the game Saturday, scoring on the first shot of the game on a setup from Camryn Ward. The injury-depleted Seals, however, did let that early deficit get them down and they matched the intensity of their opponents and were rewarded midway through the period when their mega-talented first-year forward Morgan Jackson tied the game.

Brooklyn Hutchings of Prince George gave the Caps the go-ahead goal with a shot from the face-off circle 2:19 into the second period. The Seals made it difficult for Caps defenders and came close to netting the tying goal 12 minutes into the second when Jackson let go a one-timer from close range while on a  5-on-3 power play. But Sierra Eagles stuck out her glove and blocked the shot – her best save of the game – to keep her team ahead.

In the third period, Ward broke in on a 2-on-1 with Hailey Armstrong and elected to shoot. Seals goalie Rachel Lee made the save but the puck came out to Armstrong, who spun off a quick shot that hit the stick of Goulet and deflected high into the net for a 3-1 lead with nine minutes left.

The Seals answered with plenty of pressure but were frustrated by some stellar goaltending from Eagles. She also had some help from the goalpost when Seals captain Melissa Svenson came close to making it a one-goal game with 5:25 left. Armstrong ended the suspense with an empty-netter with 1:59 left.

“It was a good game, we played hard,” said the 18-year-old Goulet, a native of Fort St. John. “The other team played really well too, but in the end I think we deserved it.

“(Eagles) stood on her head, she stepped up when we needed her most, when we were letting her down and that just proves she’s ready for playoffs. It’s just a good group of girls and we’re hard-working.”

Seals head coach Jesse Hammill was proud of his team’s response in the second game, missing three regulars with injuries.

“They’ve been so good and we’ve some adversity with so many injuries,” he said. “(Friday) wasn’t our day, we just didn’t have it and today they came out and gave it.

“I’ve said all year that Capitals team in the team with the most depth of anyone in this league. They’re a solid hockey club and they gave us all we could handle and we were close, we had lots of chances. We ran out of steam.”

Capitals head coach Mario Desjardins knew from their regular-season meetings his team would get tested and the Seals, looking to extend their season, certainly did that.

“They came out battling because they knew they had to win today and I think our team responded quite well, especially in the last period,” said Desjardins. “It’s unexpected to get a goal so early, it’s always nice to get that first one and put them on their heels a bit but they responded quite well and  the Seals played quite well, but our girls battled for 60 minutes and I couldn’t be happier we’re going to the finals.”  

The Capitals will move on to the best-of-three league championship series in Langley next weekend against the Fraser Valley Rush. The Rush eliminated the Thompson-Okanagan Blazers Saturday with a 4-1 win, after taking Game 1 on Friday 7-1.

The Capitals and Rush have played each other eight times this season and Fraser Valley has won five of those games but they’ve been close matches. Ayre will return to the Cougar lineup for Friday’s game.

Meanwhile, at the U-17 triple-A playoffs in Abbotsford, the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds ended the Cariboo Cougars’ season with a 7-4 triumph Saturday in Game 2 of the best-of-three series. The T-birds won 2-1 on Friday.

Seth Habsburg led the Cougars with two goals Saturday, while Anthony Duhamel and Jesse Brodeau also scored.

At the U-15 triple-A tournament in North Vancouver, after four straight losses, the Cariboo Cougars found the win column Saturday, beating the North Island Silvertips 8-5.

Hunter Henry, Jack Tidsbury and Wesley Lizotte each scored twice for Cariboo. Lucas Woodbeck and Brett Peebles had the other Cougar goals. They finished the tournament with a 1-4 record.