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Central Canada Cup update, Day 4: Saskatoon, St. Paul reach finals, Selects' run over

The finals of the Central Canada Cup will be a Saskatchewan vs. Alberta affair, with the host Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) Selects coming up short in their bid for glory.
PBCN Selects forward Harlan Jacobson tries to poke-check St. Paul Canadien Rylan Cardinal during their Central Canada Cup semifinal game April 20. The Canadiens won 4-1, eliminating the Selects and ending their season.

The finals of the Central Canada Cup will be a Saskatchewan vs. Alberta affair, with the host Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) Selects coming up short in their bid for glory.

In the first of the semifinal games, the LJHL's Current River Storm faced the PJHL's Saskatoon Royals. In the round robin, the two teams battled to a 6-6 tie, finishing neck-and-neck even after overtime.

This time, the Royals would not be denied, shutting out the Storm and reaching the final with a 6-0 win.

Keenan Bender continued his hot form from Friday, scoring two goals in the first period and Trae Lees added another, putting Saskatoon up 3-0 after 20. Matthew Ripplinger scored his eighth goal of the tourney in the second and Kaiden Korolchuk and Ayden Belanger added third period markers to clinch the win and send the Storm home.

Brayden Schenstead saved all 22 shots he faced in the Saskatoon net, while Paul Lecuyer, Current River's starting goalie, was stuck with the loss, making 11 saves before being pulled early in the second - Parker Ball came in and made 23 stops in relief.

With one team confirmed in, the second semifinal began - pitting the host PBCN Selects against the undefeated St. Paul Canadiens from the NEAJBHL. Their opening round matchup Thursday ended in a 7-0 win for the Canadiens.

The two teams' second clash was much closer, especially through 40 minutes, but St. Paul would book their ticket to the final with a 4-1 victory.

The game was scoreless until Theron McGregor put the Selects on the board midway through the second period on a powerplay, giving them the lead. The Canadiens would respond soon after, with Konnor Poitras tying the game up with five minutes left in the frame.

Heading into the third tied at one, the Selects hoped to finish off an upset, but the Canadiens had other plans. Quinn Szpak scored a go-ahead goal early in the third, Rylan Cardinal scored shorthanded moments later and Szpak added another goal midway through the period. The Selects made a late push to extend their season, but the team couldn't get a second goal past St. Paul netminder Mitchell Webb, ending their hopes of winning the tournament on home ice.

Paxton Moore stopped 30 shots in the loss for PBCN, while Webb made 23 saves.

The season is now done for PBCN and Current River - the two remaining teams, St. Paul and Saskatoon, will play in the final game Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Whitney Forum. In the round robin, the Canadiens surged late in the third to pick up a 7-5 win when they played the Royals.

The Selects' loss signals the end of three players' junior B eligibility - defencemen Brycen Francoeur, Evan Madarash and Curtis Shymanski. Francoeur and Madarash are both hometown players, coming from Flin Flon and Creighton respectively, and have played the past two seasons with the Selects. Shymanski, originally from Thompson, joined the club earlier this season.

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