Daily Herald Staff
A look at the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League standings and something is noticeably missing.
Now that the Prince Albert Mintos have moved to the top of the heap, thanks mainly to the 15-game unbeaten streak the team is presently riding; one part of the familiar battle for top spot is in place.
But, where are the Saskatoon Contacts?
The two-time defending league champions are in seventh place and after going toe-to-toe with the Mintos for the regular-season banner in each of the last four years it doesn’t look like another epic chase to the finish line will occur this time around.
That doesn’t mean the rivalry is any less intense, however, as the Mintos and Contacts will renew acquaintances on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The two foes have squared off twice this year with Prince Albert winning both times by a 4-3 margin. With 17 points separating them in the standings there is still plenty on the line.
The Mintos, who have not lost since Nov. 16, need to keep winning to keep pace with the upstart Notre Dame Argos. While Prince Albert holds a two-point advantage on the Notre Dame squad, the Argos possess four games in hand.
The Contacts, meanwhile, also need to put together a streak if they hope to catch those clubs immediately in front of them. Plus, there is a real good possibility that the Mintos and Contacts could meet in the opening round of the playoffs so Thursday’s game is an opportunity for both clubs to send out a message.
The Mintos, who have by far the stingiest defence in the league, will have to play Thursday’s game without steady rearguard Lochlan Morrison, who remains in the camp of the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.
Morrison has been with the Hitmen ever since the Mintos were eliminated from the Mac’s Invitational tournament in Calgary on Dec. 30 and the 16-year-old has one point in five games prior to Wednesday’s tilt in Saskatoon against the Blades.
Morrison will also travel with the Hitmen to Swift Current on Friday after which time a decision will be made as to where he will spend the remainder of the season.
The Mintos certainly could use Morrison as they prepare to host the Telus Cup western regional tournament in April, but developing players for a higher level is also a key component of what the club is in place to do.
After Thursday’s game the Mintos will enjoy a 10-day break before they return to action on Jan. 19 when they will have a first-place showdown at the Art Hauser Centre with the Argos. Prince Albert will then host the Battlefords Stars on Jan. 23 to complete a nine-game homestand before they take to the road for four straight.