With a not-so-enjoyable Christmas break behind them, the Prince Albert Mintos get back to work today when they take on the Regina Pat Canadians in a Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League game at 1:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
What is normally a high point of the season, the annual trip to the Mac’s Invitational tournament in Calgary over the holiday season was actually quite challenging for the first-place Mintos.
Shortly after departing from Prince Albert on Christmas Day, long-time equipment manager Dan (Cobra) Taylor took ill and was transported to hospital in Saskatoon where it was determined he had suffered a stroke.
Mintos’ manager Don Fauchoux said on Thursday that Taylor is improving, but has a long recovery period in his future. Head coach Ken Morrison added by saying that several players and coaches have visited with Taylor and that he recognizes people and can follow conversations, but he is weak from more than a week in a hospital bed.
Once in Calgary, the Mintos then ran into a flu epidemic that affected more than half the team and the combination of events resulted in the team posting a 0-3-1 record and missing out on the playoff round.
“I thought the guys did the best they could do,” says Morrison. “I’m proud of them.”
The flu bug has apparently followed the team home as just 11 players were at practise on Thursday as the team prepared for today’s game against Regina and Sunday’s tilt at 1:30 p.m. against the Swift Current Legionnaires.
Morrison said that several players were just told to go home for the night on Thursday to get some additional rest. A number of players played in Calgary despite being ill and he expects the same this weekend.
The Mintos, who have a 19-5-2-0 record and hold a two-point lead over the Saskatoon Contacts, have played the Pat Canadians three times this year, winning twice. Regina is just four points back of the Mintos and Morrison says that every game from here on in will be that much tougher and even more important as to where the team places in the final standings.
“Regina is a really strong team and Swift Current played well against us early in the season,” says Morrison. “Every game in this league is going to be a tough game. I would just like to get our guys healthy.”
The Mintos and Legionnaires have faced each other three times this year with Prince Albert winning once and tying the other two. The two clubs have not seen each other in two months, but Sunday’s game is one the Mintos can’t take lightly even with Swift Current being in 10th place in the 12-team standings.
Following this weekend’s action, the Mintos will have some time to recuperate as they have just a make-up game, from a match that was postponed in November, in Beardy’s against the last-place Blackhawks on Thursday in the next two weeks.
The next home game is Jan. 19 when the Mintos will host the Blazers in the first-ever Outdoor Classic at the Crescent Heights Arena. The A&W Bears will also take on the Saskatoon Stars in a Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League game that day with tickets available at the Raider office for the entire day of activities.