The Prince Albert Mintos have done their part on home ice, now they will have to see when they return to the friendly confines of the Art Hauser Centre.
The Mintos completed the home portion of their Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League schedule on the weekend with a 6-3 decision over the Moose Jaw Generals on Saturday and a 3-2 triumph over the Notre Dame Hounds on Sunday.
Prince Albert, which moved into a share of second place with the Battlefords Stars following the weekend results, will play their final three games on the road. With all other teams having games in hand on the Mintos, Prince Albert could still finish anywhere from first to fifth, but head coach Ken Morrison is optimistic that they will start the playoffs on home ice.
“We’ve got a good chance of finishing second,” says Morrison. “That’s kind of our goal. You don’t want to tell them just to finish out the season.”
Prince Albert trails the league-leading Notre Dame Argos by just four points, but with the Argos having played three fewer games they are going to have to have a disastrous finish to be overtaken by anyone.
The Mintos have also suited up two more times than the Stars, but Prince Albert’s next game – Thursday in the Battlefords – could prove decisive as to who claims the second seed for the post-season.
The win over the Generals on Saturday gave Prince Albert a two-point cushion on Moose Jaw, but again games in hand could come into play as the season enters its final two weeks. The Tisdale Trojans are also still in the hunt for home-ice advantage in the opening round (top four teams get the extra game in the first series) as they are just three points back of Moose Jaw and they too have some games in hand on everyone.
Regardless of where they finish, the Mintos will be hoping to get some bodies back in the line-up as four regulars sat out the weekend matches due to injury. Braden Lozinski, Braxx George and Dakota Boutin are all out for an extended period of time while Lance Yaremchuk could return on Thursday.
Josh McDougall and Austin Odnokon were summoned from the Midget AA Dmyterko Enterprises Raiders for Saturday’s contest while McDougall and Erik Gardiner from Humboldt dressed on Sunday. Even with those two extra bodies, the Mintos played the weekend series three players short and Morrison says that situation is wearing those down who are still in the line-up.
“We’re getting a little fatigued,” admitted Morrison. “Some of the guys have really stepped it up. I’m pretty proud of how they played.”
On Saturday, Carson Cayer and Ryan Duret led the Mintos with two goals each while Wyatt Grant and Lochlan Morrison added singles. On Sunday it was Grant, Morrison and Rhys Kipling providing the offence with Lane Michasiw stopping 22 shots to get the win in goal. Connor Ingram was tested 26 times on Saturday.
Prince Albert, which finished the home portion of the regular schedule with a 14-5-3 mark (four of the five losses were by one goal), will follow up Thursday’s game in the Battlefords with a Feb. 18 game in Saskatoon against the Blazers. They will once again head to Saskatoon on Feb. 20 when they will conclude the regular season against the Contacts.