Despite going undefeated in the month of November, the Prince Albert Mintos can’t afford to take their foot off the accelerator.
The Mintos were 8-0-1-0 this month, but as the calendar flips to December they find themselves in a battle with three other teams for top spot in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League standings.
Entering this weekend’s action, the Mintos and Regina Pat Canadians were tied for first place with identical 13-3-2-0 records while the Tisdale Trojans were just three points in arrears. The defending league champion Saskatoon Contacts are another point back, but have a game in hand on the frontrunners and they were to use that on Thursday with a date in Beardy’s against the last-place Blackhawks.
Prince Albert begins its pre-Christmas stretch drive on Saturday in Saskatoon with a game against the Blazers and that will be followed by a showdown with the Pat Canadians on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
In addition to the game in Beardy’s, the Contacts have matches against the Notre Dame Argos and Moose Jaw Generals -- both at home -- this weekend while Tisdale is in the Battlefords for a doubleheader against the red-hot Stars, winners of five straight and by no means out of the picture as they are just five points out of the top spot.
The Mintos, obviously, can’t look past Saskatoon on Saturday despite Prince Albert having started their current unbeaten streak with a 3-1 triumph over the Blazers a month ago, but the feature match this weekend is unquestionably the tilt against Regina.
The Pat Canadians have far and away the stingiest defence in the league allowing just 26 goals in 18 games with the goaltending tandem of Cameron Pateman and Logan Flodell posting league best 1.31 and 1.56 goals-against averages, respectively.
Prince Albert is a distant second in team defence allowing 36 goals in 18 games with Tanner Burgardt having the third-best individual statistics with a 1.70 GAA. Burgardt missed the last Minto game to attend a family funeral, but should be ready for the crucial weekend games.
Regina is not only solid in their own end, but they also have the league’s second highest scorer in Mitch Lipon. The younger brother of Western Hockey League scoring leader JC Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers, has nine goals and 19 assists to trail just Kolten Olynek of the Saskatoon Contacts.
A strong month of November has Lance Yaremchuk leading the Mintos with 14 goals and 11 assists, to sit in fifth spot overall in the individual scoring race. Rookies Kylar Hope and Justin Boyer, along with defenseman Bryton Sayers, are all grouped together with 21 points.
The Mintos have to play one game at a time and that starts Saturday against the Blazers. If the result is favourable then Sunday’s match will be for sole possession of first place against Regina, a team they have split two previous meetings with. If they stumble on Saturday, or Sunday for that matter, they could find themselves in fourth place. That’s how important every game is and the undefeated month is now just a statistic.