Daily Herald Staff
The playoff picture in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League is getting pretty muddled and the Prince Albert Mintos are right in the thick of it.
The Mintos reclaimed sole possession of third place in the standings with a 4-1 victory over the Beardy’s Blackhawks on Thursday and with just over two weeks left in the regular schedule they are going to have to continue collecting victories to give them a shot at the regular-season banner.
While putting together a streak to finish the regular campaign does not guarantee them first place, something they have done in each of the last three years, it is becoming more and more necessary to finish strong to at least get home-ice advantage for the first, and possibly, second rounds of the post-season.
The Minto win, coupled with the Moose Jaw Generals’ victory over the league-leading Notre Dame Argos on Thursday, has the top five teams who are battling for home-ice advantage grouped even tighter together.
Prince Albert trails the Argos by four points and now is just a single point back of the second-place Battlefords Stars. They are also two points clear of the Generals and six up on the Tisdale Trojans. All of the teams battling with Prince Albert for playoff positioning, however, hold games in hand on the Mintos.
On Thursday it was captain Teal Sobkowicz leading the way for the Mintos with a hat-trick while Loch Morrison added a single. Prince Albert product Reed Gunville had the lone Blackhawks’ goal.
Connor Ingram padded his league-leading goaltending stats with 23 saves. The 16-year-old Ingram now has a 1.70 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
While the outing was impressive as it improved the Mintos’ standing as the top defensive team (75 goals allowed in 37 games), it was the determination shown by the depleted roster that broke through. The Mintos were missing five regulars – Braden Lozinski, Ryan Duret, Dalin Graham, Lance Yaremchuk and Dakota Boutin - due to various ailments and with affiliate players Keegan Tiringer and Erik Gardiner added to the line-up, Prince Albert still had just 15 skaters available for the game.
The Mintos conclude a four-game road trip on Saturday when they head to Tisdale to take on the Trojans. Those same two teams will square off again next Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre and if Prince Albert wants to clear up the playoff seeding a bit, winning both games against the Trojans will make it difficult for Tisdale to overtake the Mintos and at the very least guarantee them home-ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs.