There was a brief scare, but in the end the inevitable happened as the Prince Albert Mintos clinched first place in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular season with a 9-0 rout of the Beardy’s Blackhawks on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It feels good,” said Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison. “It’s something you don’t want to put off and wait.”
With the win, the Mintos can finish no worse than a tie with the Saskatoon Contacts, but Saskatoon can’t match them in victories – the first tie-breaker – therefore, for the third straight year Prince Albert will have home-ice advantage for as long as they are in the playoffs.
With Beardy’s being in last place in the 12-team league, it was expected that a victory would come easy. The end result might indicate so, but Morrison admits there were a bit of nerves on the bench when the teams played to a scoreless draw in the opening 20 minutes.
“We knew they were going to come out and play,” said Morrison. “Beating us would be like; it would be huge for them.”
“In the second and third periods the guys just started to play better,” added Morrison, who is finishing his first year as head coach, but was an assistant for the regular-season titles the club recorded in the two previous years. “I just think the guys realized we could be a lot better.”
Once the gates opened, there was no stopping the Mintos as they scored six times in the second period and three more in the third with Prince Albert netminder Lane Michasiw barely breaking a sweat as he made 16 saves to record his third shutout of the year. Michasiw’s performance lowers his goals-against average to 1.63, second best in the league behind just Logan Flodell of the Regina Pat Canadians.
Lance Yaremchuk, the league’s leading goal scorer, scored twice on Thursday to increase his total to 34 on the year. Ryan Duret, Bryton Sayers and Adam Osczevski all scored once and added two assists while Cody Young, Kylar Hope, Justin Boyer and Keegan Kjargaard rounded out the scoring with one goal each.
In total, the Mintos fired 53 shots at the Beardy’s tandem of Daniel Jahnke and Kylke Rahier.
With first place all locked up, the Mintos will have four games to get ready for the playoffs. Morrison says he will be looking for his team to continue playing the way they have despite the fact that there is nothing else to accomplish in the regular season.
“The hardest part is going to be getting the guys to play playoff hockey,” admitted Morrison. “We have to get to work at being ready and come out and play games.”
Those games will resume on Saturday when the Yorkton Harvest are at the Art Hauser Centre for a 1:30 p.m. start. The Battlefords Stars complete Prince Albert’s home schedule on Tuesday and the Mintos will travel to Tisdale on Feb. 23 and Saskatoon for a game against the Contacts on Feb. 24
The playoffs are scheduled to start the week of Feb. 26 with a first-round opponent yet to be determined.