Daily Herald Staff
Now the real work begins!
For the first time in four years the Prince Albert Mintos will begin the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs as somewhat of an underdog as they will be the No. 3 seed as opposed to being the regular-season champions.
As a result the Mintos, who have not played in over a week as they waited for a series of make-up games to be completed before they knew who they would face in the opening round, will have home-ice advantage for the first round only. Should they move further in the post season they will then have to start the remaining rounds on the road.
The first obstacle in making a fourth straight appearance in the championship series is the Tisdale Trojans with the best-of-five quarter-final series starting on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Mintos, who were 28-11-4-1 during the regular season, were 2-1-0-1 against the Trojans. Tisdale wound up in sixth place with a 26-14-1-3 ledger.
Prince Albert won the first two meetings against Tisdale by 3-2 and 4-2 margins, but they were swept in a home-and-home series at the beginning of February with the final meeting needing overtime to determine the outcome.
Those last two meetings require an asterisk of sorts as that was about the time that Prince Albert’s sick bay saw heavy traffic and the good news for the Mintos is that most of those occupants will be back in the line-up on Friday.
Lance Yaremchuk, who started the year with the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders but was sent back to the Mintos in mid-November, will see his first action in a month after injuring a groin in late January. Yaremchuk, the league’s leading goal scorer a year ago, had 31 points in 20 games with the Mintos this year and will be a key player in the playoffs.
Dakota Boutin, who started the year in Moose Jaw with the Generals, has only dressed for 13 games since coming to Prince Albert in November as a pair of injuries, the latest being a banged up shoulder, has kept him on the sidelines. Boutin, too, will be a major offensive threat as he registered a point-per-game while with the Mintos.
Defenseman Braden Lozinski could possibly return to the line-up on Friday as a knee injury has kept him out of the last 10 games, but his status won’t be known for sure until game time.
Just defenseman Braxx George will remain in the stands on Friday as he is still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in early February.
The return of Yaremchuk, Boutin and possibly Lozinski will definitely help the team put the pucks in the net, which bodes well for the club that had the stingiest defence in the league.
Led by netminders Lane Michasiw and Connor Ingram – both were in the top four for goaltender statistics – the Mintos were the only team to allow fewer than 100 goals against all season. That final line of defence will be crucial in the playoffs as Prince Albert was involved in 20 games that were decided by one goal or less.
Following Friday’s game the series will move to Tisdale on Sunday with Game 3 back in Prince Albert on Wednesday. Should the series go be extended beyond the minimum, Game 4 will be in Tisdale on Thursday with a fifth and deciding game slated for Mar. 9 in Prince Albert.
Other match-ups in the opening round have the regular-season champion Notre Dame Argos facing the Yorkton Harvest, the Battlefords Stars meet the two-time defending champion Saskatoon Contacts and the Telus Cup hosts from Moose Jaw will tangle with the Regina Pat Canadians.
MINTO NOTES: Tournament passes for the western regional championship to be hosted by the Mintos on April 3-6 will be on sale at Friday’s game and all remaining playoff contests. The cost for the tournament pass is $40 for adults and $30 for seniors and students. The pass will be good for all seven games scheduled for the event which will feature the host Mintos and champions from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario. The winner of the western regional will move on to the Telus Cup national championship to be played in Moose Jaw in mid-April.