If the Prince Albert Mintos hope to capture a fourth straight Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular-season pennant, then they are going to have to start another lengthy winning streak and hope for some help from other teams in the league.
The Mintos entered Sunday’s first-place showdown with the Notre Dame Argos riding an impressive 16-game unbeaten streak, but still found themselves in third place in the standings.
The Argos, who had claimed top spot while the Mintos were on a 10-day break, solidified that position and in the process put the brakes on the Prince Albert streak with a 3-2 victory at the Art Hauser Centre. The Argos now lead the Mintos by four points with the red-hot Battlefords Stars just one point behind Notre Dame and three in front of Prince Albert.
“They’re a good team,” acknowledged Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison. “I didn’t think we played our best game by any means. We made some bad mistakes…they come right at you and it’s accentuated with their speed.”
“It gives us a good measure of where we need to be and what we need to do,” added Morrison, who watched his team lose for the first time since Nov. 16. “They showed us a few things we have to work on when we play better teams.”
Dallin Graham for Prince Albert and Elijah Francis for the Argos exchanged first-period goals while Cole Williams for Notre Dame and the Mintos’ Rhys Kipling did the same in the middle frame.
Keegan Milligan capitalized on one of those crucial Minto mistakes that Morrison alluded to early in the third period to net the eventual game winner.
The contest certainly had the makings of a playoff game as the checking was tight and scoring opportunities were limited. Prince Albert finished the game outshooting the Argos 21-17 with Lane Michasiw taking the loss in the Minto net while Dylan Ferguson posted the win for Notre Dame.
For the first time in more than a month the Mintos had their full line-up as defenceman Lochlan Morrison was back with the club after a six-game audition with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.
The Mintos are going to need everyone healthy and all on the same page as they enter the final phase of the regular season. It doesn’t get any easier as the Battlefords, who have won seven in a row, visit the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday at 7 p.m.
After that game the Mintos take to the road for four straight and then play their final three at home before finishing the season with three more on the road.