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Stoney Creek Sabres win battle of unbeatens at Esso Cup

A battle of unbeaten teams lived up to its billing Wednesday at the national female midget hockey championships.

The Stoney Creek Sabres, 4-0, outlasted West representative Weyburn Gold Wings 3-2 in Wednesday night’s Esso Cup action.  With the win, Stoney Creek clinches the top playoff seed heading into its final preliminary round game on Thursday.

After a cautious start by both teams, Kayla Vespa’s highlight reel goal opened the scoring for Stoney Creek at the 4:47-mark of the first period. Vespa deked her way around a Weyburn defender before scoring on her backhand, electrifying the home crowd at Gateway Ice Centre.

The big plays kept on coming.

Megan Korzack gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead after she was sprung on a breakaway by a perfect tip pass from Sarah Nelles. Korzack beat Weyburn goaltender Jane Kish with a high wrist shot.

Stoney Creek scored again on a controversial play before the end of the first period. After taking a centering pass from Claire Merrick, Alexa Vasko bulged the twine to make it 3-0. Replays appeared to show the net coming off its moorings before the puck entered the net, but the play stood.

Despite the setbacks, the Gold Wings soared out of the gates in the middle frame.

A goal by Weyburn’s Madison Solie got the Gold Wings back into the game early in the second. Her slapshot from the point beat Sabres goaltender Serena D’Angelo through a screen.

Weyburn got within one when Paige Smith grabbed a loose puck and beat D’Angelo with a quick snap shot. Suddenly, Stoney Creek was on its heels.

Both teams traded scoring chances for the remainder of the second and third periods, but goaltenders D’Angelo and Kish held the fort.

The Sabres withstood a furious charge by the Gold Wings in the dying seconds after Weyburn sent Kish to the bench for an extra skater.

The Sabres finish their preliminary round Thursday evening against the Edmonton Thunder before facing off in Friday’s semifinal. Final playoff seedings will be determined on Thursday as well.

The main events are Saturday, with the bronze medal game at noon and the gold medal match-up at 4 p.m.

Stoney Creek is trying to become the first ever host team to win the Esso Cup in the tournament’s six-year history.

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