Like an experienced hunter, the Mintos waited for the right opportunity to pounce on their prey and when that chance came along, they made sure they took advantage of it.
Trailing 2-1 entering the final 20 minutes of play in the opening game of their Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship final series with the Saskatoon Contacts on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre, the Mintos didn’t panic.
Even with a four-minute man-advantage situation to start the final session, they didn’t stray from their game plan and then within 50 seconds, they had the lead and never looked back as they skated to a 4-2 win and grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.
“In the third period we got a huge momentum boost,” said Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison. “When (Kylar) Hope tied it up that brought a new level to the game.”
Hope’s goal came just two seconds after the four-minute man advantage and when Eric Young wired a blast from the point 50 seconds later one could tell the game was more or less in the books.
Lance Yaremchuk, with his league-leading ninth goal of the playoffs, completed the scoring less than six minutes later and for the remainder of the game Prince Albert put a blanket on the Contacts as they managed just four shots in the final session.
“They’re a good team, but (after Young’s goal) we took it to them,” said Morrison.
Adam Osczevski had the other Prince Albert goal with Kade Kehoe getting both Saskatoon tallies to give the Contacts 1-0 and 2-1 leads.
Tanner Burgardt stopped 19 shots in the Prince Albert goal to pick up the win while Rylan Parenteau was tested 31 times in the Saskatoon goal.
The Mintos once again had to rely on a trio of affiliate players to fill out their roster as regulars Kody White, Teal Sobkowicz and Braxx George were still recovering from various injuries.
Morrison said that White was cleared to play on Thursday, but because he hadn’t seen any game action in a couple of weeks, the decision to play the affiliate players was made.
Inserted in the lineup were Chris Stubbs, Blair MacFarlane and Brody Senger, but with Stubbs and MacFarlane heading to Regina today for the SaskFirst zone tournament Morrison says White and George will be in the lineup when the series resumes on Sunday in Saskatoon. Senger also had a chance to go to the ZoneFirst camp, but he has forfeited his invitation so that he can remain with the Mintos in whatever role is required.
With this being the third straight year that the Mintos and Contacts have met in the league final – Prince Albert won in 2011 while Saskatoon claimed the title last year – it is expected to be a long series and the tight checking shown in the opening game on Thursday confirmed that.
Game 3 is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.