© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Prince Albert Mintos captain Teal Sobkowicz stands on the doorstep of the Saskatoon Blazer goal looking for a rebound during Sunday's 5-1 Minto victory at the Art Hauser Centre.
It took more time than most expected, but the Prince Albert Mintos are back in familiar territory.
After a convincing 8-1 win over the Regina Pat Canadians on Saturday and a 5-1 triumph over the Saskatoon Blazers on Sunday, the Mintos are back in first place in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League standings.
The Mintos have been at or near the top in the last three years, all three of which resulted in the team advancing to the league’s championship series. With Prince Albert hosting the Telus Cup western regional event in April, most expected the Mintos to be in a similar position, but a very slow start had them at the opposite end of the standings.
A 15-game unbeaten streak, including wins in their last 13 matches, has moved Prince Albert up the ladder with this weekend’s sweep getting them back into their familiar spot atop the standings.
“I compare it to watching your kid grow,” explained Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison. “Sometimes you don’t even notice and then someone that hasn’t seen them for a while comes and says, ‘oh wow, is your kid growing!’ When you’re coaching a team it is kind of the same idea.”
“I like to think if people watching the team now, compared to the beginning, they have seen a big improvement,” added Morrison.
The penthouse view might be just a temporary one, however, as the Notre Dame Argos are only two points back of Prince Albert and have four games in hand. For now, however, it is theirs to enjoy and they have a total team effort to thank for it.
“Tonight we had a really good team effort from everyone – we’re really showing signs of improvement,” stated Morrison after Sunday’s victory.
Jared Blaquiere, Braxx George, Ryan Duret, Carson Cayer and Braden Lozinski, with his first-ever Midget AAA goal, scored for Prince Albert in the win over Saskatoon while Lance Yaremchuk led the way in the rout of Regina scoring twice and setting up two others. Yaremchuk, who had been recalled by the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders over the Christmas holidays, also had two assists on Sunday giving him 27 points in just 14 games with the Mintos this year.
Dakota Boutin also had two goals while Duret, with a goal and three assists, Cayer, Dalin Graham and Teal Sobkowicz also scored against the Pat Canadians. Lozinski chipped in with three helpers giving him four points on the weekend.
Prince Albert’s goaltending tandem once again split the duties with Connor Ingram turning aside 26 shots for the win on Saturday while Lane Michasiw was tested just 20 times in recording the win on Sunday. Ingram now has a 1.70 goals-against average in his rookie year while Michasiw is at 2.31.
Prince Albert was without stalwart defenceman Lochlan Morrison for both games as the 16-year-old has remained in Calgary since the Mintos were eliminated from the Mac’s Invitational tournament on Monday.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Calgary Hitmen in 2012, Morrison has dressed for the last three Hitmen games and collected his first-ever WHL point on Sunday when he got an assist in Calgary’s 10-2 blowout win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Morrison is expected to be in the Calgary line-up when they visit the Raiders on Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Mintos head coach, who is Lochlan’s father, did not know for sure what Calgary’s plans were for his son, but for now they are enjoying the thrill of a second generation player in the WHL as Ken was a member of the Memorial Cup champion Raiders in 1985 in addition to making it to the Memorial Cup tournament with the Kamloops Blazers in 1986.
In the absence of the younger Morrison, the Mintos inserted affiliate player Bryce Fiske, a product of Air Ronge, who has a number of games of experience at the Midget AAA level with the Tisdale Trojans.
Prince Albert will have one more home game on Thursday against the Saskatoon Contacts before they get a much-needed 10-day break. The Mintos will have just 12 games left on the regular schedule after that break with seven of them being on the road.