SLASH EDGE STARS, REPEAT AS ESSO CUP CHAMPIONS
JASON LA ROSE
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. – Tyra Meropoulis scored in the first period, Madison Willan netted the game-winning goal in the second and the St. Albert Slash became the first team to ever go back-to-back at the Esso Cup with a 2-1 win over the Saskatoon Stars in the gold medal game Saturday night.
The Slash have gone 13-1 in two years at Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, the only blemish a 4-1 loss to Saskatoon on Tuesday that was avenged with a national title on the line.
One year ago, Meropoulis scored the lone goal in the final, the overtime winner. This time around she found the back of the net much earlier, tucking her own rebound around Saskatoon goaltender Jordan Ivanco late in the first period.
The Stars, who had scored 28 goals in their first six games, were smothered offensively from the drop of the puck, managing only nine shots on goal in the first two periods.
Willan doubled the lead in the dying seconds of the middle frame, knocking a loose puck off the post and past an outstretched Ivanco to send the Slash to the intermission up 2-0.
Saskatoon responded less than a minute into the third period; Grace Shirley forced a turnover at the St. Albert blue-line before finding Kianna Dietz for a tap-in to cut the lead in half.
But that would be the only puck to find its way past Slash netminder Camryn Drever, who made 14 saves.
Meropoulis, Willan and Drever are three of the 10 members of the Slash who returned from the 2017 title-winning team that became the first to ever run through the Esso Cup unbeaten.
The Stars were a win away from equaling that feat, but lost for just the fifth time all year in regular season and playoff action; Saskatoon had won 24 games in a row before Sunday – it went 10-0 to finish the regular season and 6-0 in the SFMAAAHL playoffs, swept Eastman in the two-game West Regional and was 6-0 at the LCLC entering the gold medal game.
The 2019 Esso Cup will be held April 21-27 in Sudbury, Ont., with the Sudbury Lady Wolves, the 2015 national champions, serving as host team.