Minto season comes to an end
The Prince Albert Mintos’ attempt at a second straight comeback stalled before it even got started as they were eliminated from the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs with a 4-1 setback to the Battlefords Stars on Saturday.
Prince Albert, which were looking to overcome a two-game deficit similar to the one they faced in the opening round against the Tisdale Trojans, surrendered the final four goals of the game on Saturday giving the Battlefords a three-game sweep and a date in the league final.
“I’m happy with our guys’ effort yesterday (Saturday),” said Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison. “We had a really good first period and a decent second period, but I think we just ran out of gas a bit in the third; we weren’t able to pull it out.”
“You have to give them credit; they are a good team over there,” added Morrison.
Jared Blaquiere continued his torrid pace in the playoffs when he opened the scoring early in the second period, but Blaquiere’s seventh goal in eight post-season matches was all the Mintos could get past Battlefords’ netminder Rylan Toth.
Layne Young, with a shorthanded marker late in the second period, tied the game at 1-1 and then Logan Nachtegaele, Josh Bly and Spencer Bast sealed the win with three unanswered goals in the final frame.
Toth finished the game with 23 saves while Connor Ingram was tested 30 times in the Mintos’ goal.
The turning point in the series was obviously the 3-2 double overtime loss in Game 2 on Thursday. Prince Albert held the lead late in regulation time before the Battlefords tied it with 1:17 left to play and then with the Mintos down two men in the second extra session, the Stars netted the winner.
“It could have been a different series,” admitted Morrison. “We win that and it’s a best of three. We knew we were going to have to win one down there and with the series tied we would have had a couple cracks down there as long as we win our games at home.”
“It was disappointing,” added Morrison.
While their run at a provincial championship is over the Mintos still have some hockey to play as they will be the host team for the Western Regional championship beginning on April 3 at the Art Hauser Centre.
Prince Albert will go up against the champions from Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in an effort to advance to the Telus Cup national championship which will be held in Moose Jaw later in April.
Morrison says the club will take a couple of days off and then get back to hard practises later in the week. He says they will likely work hard for a week and then take a couple more days off before getting final preparations done before the Western Regional event.
The two-plus weeks off should help a pair of injured players get healthy as well as Braxx George and Carson Cayer are both nursing sore shoulders and have just recently returned to the ice doing light workouts.
Prince Albert knows its next opponent will be the Northern Ontario champions, but the Battlefords have to wait a few days to see who they will meet in the league final. Notre Dame Argos lead the other semifinal series two games to one after Sunday’s 3-1 triumph in Wilcox.