Western Regionals start Thursday
The wait is over for the Prince Albert Mintos.
After being sidelined from the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs 18 days ago the Mintos return to game action on Thursday when they will face the Thunder Bay Kings at 8 p.m. in their opening game of the Western Regional championship at the Art Hauser Centre.
The three-game sweep at the hands of the Battlefords Stars in the league semifinalsgave the Mintos some time to get refreshed and head coach Ken Morrison feels his club is ready for the challenge that lies in front of them.
“I think we’re ready,” said Morrison, who also indicated that the Mintos should be at full strength with Braxx George and Carson Cayer back with the club after missing most of the league playoffs with upper-body injuries. “We’ve been working hard (in practise) for a couple of weeks.”
While the league playoffs attracted some large crowds, it is expected to be close to a full house for every Minto game this week and Morrison says that is one thing he still has to address his team about before Thursday’s match.
“They haven’t had too much experience with that kind of a thing,” admitted Morrison. “We’ll probably get the guys who were here last year to talk about that last game (against the Saskatoon Contacts in the league final).”
That fifth and deciding game was a near sellout and the atmosphere was electric. With the Mintos being the only game left in town all indications point for hockey fans to be flocking to the rink to see some of the best Midget AAA hockey to be seen in this area this year.
After six pre-season games, a trip to Calgary for the annual Mac’s tournament, 44 regular-season games and eight intense playoff matches, Morrison says there is no real secret left on what the Mintos have to do to be successful.
“We have to play 60 minutes; that’s all we really can do,” says Morrison. “I think if we play well we can compete. We don’t know much about two of the teams, but we played the Argos fairly close.”
“We have a great opportunity to something special,” added Morrison.
The Mintos were 1-3 against the league-champion Argos in the regular season with two of those losses being decided by one goal. Notre Dame was the last team to book a ticket for the Western Regional when they captured the provincial title on the weekend with a four-game triumph over the Battlefords.
Also competing at the event is the Manitoba champion Winnipeg Wild, who will face the Argos in the opening game on Thursday at 5 p.m.
The winner of the four-day playdown will earn a spot in the Telus Cup national championship slated for Moose Jaw later this month.
Tournament passes for the championship cost $40 for adults and $30 for seniors and students. The passes will be available at the front door starting at around 4 p.m. on Thursday, but there will also be a table set up tonight from 7-9 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre for those who want to get their passes early.
Following is a complete schedule of the games to be played this week
5 p.m. Notre Dame Argos vs. Winnipeg Wild
8 p.m. Thunder Bay Kings vs. Prince Albert Mintos
5 p.m. Thunder Bay Kings vs. Notre Dame Argos
8 p.m. Winnipeg Wild vs. Prince Albert Mintos
12:30 p.m. Winnipeg Wild vs. Thunder Bay Kings
3:30 p.m. Prince Albert Mintos vs. Notre Dame Argos
2 p.m. Championship final (top two teams from round-robin)