It doesn’t get any better than this.
Forget the fact that the Prince Albert Mintos and Saskatoon Contacts were the top two teams during the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular season. There is a history between the two rivals and another chapter will be added to their rivalry when they open the best-of-five league championship series tonight at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Mintos, who finished seven points ahead of the Contacts in the regular season, have had a relatively easy time getting to this point as they swept both the Notre Dame Argos and Saskatoon Blazers in the opening rounds.
The Contacts have also recorded a pair of sweeps of their own as they disposed of the Battlefords Stars and Regina Pat Canadians in the minimum six games.
Therefore, what was expected to happen has happened, and with the Mintos and Contacts having met in the last two provincial finals – each team has won once – this series could be a long, drawn-out battle.
So far in the playoffs the Mintos have had little trouble scoring goals as the top line of Lance Yaremchuk, Jason Duret and Joel Blaquiere have led the way with a combined 34 points in six games. Secondary scoring has been solid as well with Justin Boyer, Ryan Duret, Bryton Sayers and Eric Young each contributing five points thus far in the post-season.
By contrast, the Contacts have struggled finding the back of the net despite posting six straight wins.
Saskatoon finished second in the league in goals scored, just three behind Prince Albert, but they have only tallied 17 goals in the post-season and their two leading scorers from the regular campaign – Vukie Mpofu and Kolten Olynek – have just four goals between them. Rodney Southam leads the way in playoff scoring for the Contacts with eight points.
Defensively, Saskatoon has been the better team as they have allowed just seven goals in the six playoff games and if you take away the three they let in against the Stars in the playoff opener, that number becomes even more significant.
Rylan Parenteau, a Prince Albert Raider prospect, has tended the Contacts’ net in all six games and has a sparkling 1.06 goals-against-average including shutouts in two of his last three starts.
Prince Albert’s numbers aren’t too shabby either as they have allowed just 11 goals in their playoff run with rookie Lane Michasiw posting a 1.12 GAA in his three appearances.
The key to the series is that Prince Albert is healthy this time around. Last year when the Contacts won the league title in four games, the Mintos were digging into their talent pool from the bantam ranks as several regulars were sidelined with major injuries.
With Prince Albert returning eight players from last year, and the Contacts having seven, both teams know full well what is at stake – a trip to Kenora, Ont., for the Telus Cup western regionals.