The Prince Albert Mintos took advantage of a very undisciplined Saskatoon Blazer team to advance to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship series for the third straight year.
The Blazers offered up 13 power-play opportunities to the Mintos and although Prince Albert capitalized on just one of those gifts, they used the other man-advantage situations to build momentum and complete a three-game sweep with a convincing 5-0 victory on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre.
“I told them in between the second and third periods we can’t afford to get anyone suspended; just keep your mouths shut and skate away,” said Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison in explaining how he kept his club from getting caught up in the Blazers’ obvious game plan of trying to lure them into straying from their normal style of play.
“Kenny told us to just skate away,” added Prince Albert sniper Lance Yaremchuk, who scored three times in the series-clinching victory. “Sometimes it was hard to skate away.”
In addition to the 13 power-plays, the Blazers also had three players receive 10 minute misconducts as once the game out of reach, Saskatoon took several liberties on Minto players, but Prince Albert didn’t take the bait.
Taking penalties wasn’t the only area where Saskatoon aided Prince Albert on Thursday as the Mintos’ first goal was actually knocked into the Blazer goal by their own player and a misplayed puck off the end boards by netminder Evan Weninger resulted in the second tally, with those goals coming 41 seconds apart.
Yaremchuk, who leads the league in playoff goals with eight, scored both Prince Albert markers in the first period and then completed the hat-trick in the second when he sandwiched his tally between goals by Cody Young and Lochlan Morrison.
The third period was scoreless, but it was obvious Prince Albert just wanted to get out of the game unscathed and complete their second straight series sweep of the post-season as they also needed the minimum to eliminate the Notre Dame Argos in the opening round.
Lane Michasiw, who was tested 22 times, lowered his league-leading goals-against average in the playoffs to 1.12 with his first shutout of the postseason while Weninger faced 50 shots in the Saskatoon goal.
Prince Albert will now get a bit of a break as they await the winner of the other semifinal series between the Saskatoon Contacts and Regina Pat Canadians. That series could take a while to complete as the defending league champion Contacts won Game 1 1-0 with the second match going into double overtime at press time on Thursday.
The rest will do the regular-season champions good as they have three regulars out with injuries and relied on some solid contributions from affiliate players to fill in the roster. Not dressed for Prince Albert were Braxx George, Teal Sobkowicz and Kody White while filling in were Brody Senger, Blair MacFarlane and Chris Stubbs.
“Hopefully we get healthy and give them a good run,” said Morrison. “It will be whoever wants it the most so we have to be ready to go.”
The Mintos will be vying for their fourth provincial championship in the last nine seasons as they won in 2006, ’07 and ’11. They went on to win the Telus Cup after their first two championships and lost out in the regional final in 2011.
MINTO NOTES: A major fundraiser was completed on Thursday when a series of draws were made at the start of the third period. Taking home the prizes, which were donated by sponsors of the team, were: Wayne Callback (Television from Leons); Jess Stankowski (Toro package from Farmworld); Lionel Duret (Mac Tools from Mark Mac Tools); Rylan Parenteau (Pines Service skidoo package); Doug Osczevski (Slim’s Cabins package); Jackie Dranberg (BMX bike from Gene’s Sports Excellence); Brad Beaton (Bolt Supply House package); Tyler Moffat (pressure washer from NAPA).