© Herald Photo by Perry Bergson
The Prince Albert Mintos celebrate their AAA Midget Western Regional
Championship on Sunday afternoon after beating the Notre Dame Argos
4-3 at the Art Hauser Centre. With the win, the Mintos book a trip to
compete in the national Telus Cup later this month.
Simply the best!
With the Tina Turner music blasting in the background the Prince Albert Mintos celebrated that theme with a dramatic 4-3 triumph over the Notre Dame Argos in the Western Regional Midget AAA qualifying final on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre.
The win enables Prince Albert to continue playing this season as they will now head to Moose Jaw for the Telus Cup national championship which is scheduled to begin on April 21.
“We made a commitment before the game to play every shift as hard as we can and leave everything on the ice,” commented an ecstatic Ken Morrison, the Mintos’ head coach. “I thought we played our best game for 60 full minutes.”
In what could have been the best game played at the Art Hauser Centre this year, by any team at any level, the Mintos did exactly what they had to do to gain the trip to nationals for the first time since 2007.
“I can’t believe it right now,” said Ryan Duret who is in his third season with the Mintos and has now moved one step past his older brother Jason, who also spent three years with the club but had his quest for a national title stopped in the 2011 Western Regional final. “This last game, besides the second period, was the best we played all year. It’s an unreal feeling.”
“We’ll probably have a couple of days off, but I’m excited to get going again,” added Duret.
Prince Albert, who was backed by a crowd of about 2,000 fans, got things going early when Lance Yaremchuk broke in from the Notre Dame blueline on a two-on-one and while using Dakota Boutin as a decoy rifled a bullet over Argo netminder Dylan Ferguson’s shoulder.
The score remained that way until early in the second when Ferguson gave up a huge rebound on a Braxx George shot from the point and Boutin was all alone to bury the puck in a wide open net.
Dillon Dube and Chance Longjohn got the Argos back on even terms before the second period was over and that set the stage for the thrilling final 20 minutes.
“They’re (Argos) a great team and it was a big challenge, but our guys rose to the challenge,” said Morrison.
When Minto captain Teal Sobkowicz was injured early in the third period after taking the worst in a knee-on-knee collision with Dube, rookie Josh Roberts was given a bigger role and he responded with a one-timer on a Keegan Kjargaard feed that beat Ferguson high and tight over the shoulder.
Notre Dame once again battled back with Jack Flaman tying the game seven minutes into the third period, but that set the stage for Sobkowicz to make a successful return from getting treatment for his injured knee as he redirected a Rhys Kipling shot for the eventual game winner.
“This is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Yaremchuk, who split his season with the Mintos and the Western Hockey League Prince Albert Raiders.
For the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League champion Argos, who entered the final game with the best record at the Western Regional at 2-0-1, it was a disappointing end to a very successful season.
“We played hard, but had some tough luck around the net,” said Notre Dame head coach Del Pedrick. “Give Prince Albert credit they played a good game today.”
WESTERN REGIONAL NOTES: Prince Albert netminder Connor Ingram finished the game with 31 saves while Ferguson was tested 33 times in the Notre Dame net. Ingram, the SMAAAHL’s top goaltender this year, won all three of his starts in the championship…Prince Albert lost forward Chad Grambo with a shoulder injury in Sunday’s game and it is unclear if he will be ready for the Telus Cup in two weeks…Sunday’s win was just the second in six meetings for Prince Albert against the Argos this year and the first on home ice. Notre Dame had won the season series three games to one, including both games at the Art Hauser Centre, and they also defeated the Mintos 4-0 in the final round-robin game on Saturday…Voted as the tournament’s most valuable player in the round-robin portion of the tournament was Notre Dame’s Jordan Berger. Picking up an Esso scholarship for academic and athletic achievement was Ezra Hall from the Winnipeg Wild. The host committee also awarded a second scholarship to Cashen Tighe from the Thunder Bay Kings…Other teams to have already have gained berths in the Telus Cup event are the Okanagan Rockets from the Pacific Region, the Toronto Young Nationals from the Central Region and the Halifax Mac’s from the Atlantic Region. The Quebec champion has yet to be determined, but it will be either the Grenadiers de Chateauguay or Phenix du College Esther-Blondin. The Moose Jaw Generals, who have not played since being eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, will be the host team.