The Prince Albert Mintos must have been wondering what it was going to take to end the marathon, but Lance Yaremchuk finally answered that question when he netted the game winner at 3:38 of the third overtime period to lift the Mintos to a 4-3 triumph over the Saskatoon Blazers in the opening game of the best-of-five Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League semifinal series on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Prince Albert fired 52 shots at Evan Weninger in the Saskatoon goal before the game was decided and they easily had that many more blocked or redirected. Weninger was the hero in the Blazers’ first-round upset victory over the Moose Jaw Generals and the Mintos found out first hand that he can be a difference maker.
Brody Senger, an affiliate player called up from the Humboldt Broncos of the Centre-Four Hockey League, opened the scoring for Prince Albert in the first period and when Kylar Hope put the Mintos in front 2-0 in the second frame it looked like the regular-season champions had the game in control.
Carter Amson cut the deficit to 2-1 before the second period was over and then Brad Bigsby and Josh Reinbolt scored early in the third session to put Saskatoon ahead 3-2 and it appeared an upset was in the making again.
With just over two minutes to play in regulation time, Mintos’ captain Jason Duret showed great patience in front of Weninger and fired a laser into the top corner to tie the game and force the extra sessions.
After a scoreless 10-minute overtime period, the teams headed to the dressing rooms for a break and another 20 minutes of scoreless hockey forced the third extra session where Yaremchuk finally ended it.
Prince Albert totally dominated the play in overtime as they outshot Saskatoon 19-2 in the 33-plus minutes of extra time. Weninger finished with 48 saves while Lane Michasiw was tested 18 times in the Prince Albert goal.
The series now switches to Saskatoon for Game 2 on Tuesday with Game 3 scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The other semifinal series between the Saskatoon Contacts and Regina Pat Canadians will open in Saskatoon on Tuesday. The Pat Canadians were the final team to reach the final four when they beat the Yorkton Harvest 2-1 in the fifth and deciding game of their quarter-final match-up on Saturday.
MINTO NOTES: Senger was called up as a replacement for Teal Sobkowicz while Josh Elliot was summoned from the Prince Albert Liteway Electric Raiders to fill in for Kody White. Both Sobkowicz and White are out with injuries and Senger and Elliot will remain with the team until they are back…Defenseman Braxx George was also injured during Sunday’s game when he missed a check at centre ice and needed some help to get to the players bench. It is unclear how serious his injury is.