MOOSE JAW - What was once highly improbable has now become very likely as the Prince Albert Mintos have advanced to the 2014 Telus Cup championship final following a convincing 6-3 triumph over the Okanagan Rockets in semifinal action here on Saturday.
The Mintos, who have their third national championship in nine years in their sites, were dominant throughout the game and will now face either the Grenadiers de Chateauguay or the Toronto Young Nationals in Sunday’s final game.
“I started to relax with one minute left on the clock and a three-goal lead if that puts it into perspective,” laughed Mintos’ head coach Ken Morrison after the game. “It’s pretty gratifying.”
Prince Albert was 2-4-2 to start the 2013-14 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular season and thoughts of a national championship were the last thing on their minds. Making the playoffs was a more realistic goal.
In mid-November the team started to turn things around and after finishing third in the regular season the Mintos got to the league semifinals before falling to the Battlefords Stars.
A thrilling 4-3 win over the league-champion Notre Dame Argos in the Western Regional final propelled them to the national tournament and all week in Moose Jaw the Mintos have been nothing short of dominant.
During the preliminary round-robin portion of the tournament it was solid defence and spectacular goaltending that got them the No. 1 seed in the playoffs as netminders Lane Michasiw and Connor Ingram held the opposition to just three goals in the five matches.
For their efforts Ingram and Michasiw were named co-winners of the top-goaltending award with Michasiw also collecting the most valuable player honour after posting an incredible 0.33 goals-against average in his three starts.
In the semifinal against the Rockets, while Ingram was solid in making 30 saves, it was Lance Yaremchuk’s three goals and one assist that propelled the Mintos into the championship final.
“We just kept things simple,” said Yaremchuk. “I think that’s the best game we played all year.”
Prince Albert jumped out to a 2-0 advantage on goals by captain Teal Sobkowicz and Yaremchuk before the Rockets got on the board with five seconds left on the clock. Kristian Blumenschein’s tally was the first goal scored on a Minto netminder in 146 minutes and 35 seconds dating back to the third last round-robin game when Okanagan scored their only goal in a 1-1 with 6:40 left in the third period.
Wyatt Grant restored the two-goal cushion early in the second period on what would turn out to be just one of three shots Prince Albert mustered on Okanagan goalie Brendan Barry in the middle frame.
Yaremchuk got a strange goal early in the third when his shot from along the boards squeezed under Barry’s pads to extend the lead to 4-1, but the Rockets battled back with power-play goals by Tyson Jost and Tanner Campbell to make the game interesting.
A wild goal-mouth scramble later in the period resulted in Loch Morrison getting a huge rebound and an empty net to deposit it into with Barry taking exception to Minto forward Jared Blaquiere’s tenacity around the goal resulting in a bit of a scrum.
Yaremchuk sealed the win with an empty-net goal and the large crowd of supporters from Prince Albert showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life,” said Yaremchuk. “It’s only going to be better tomorrow.”
The championship game starts at 3 p.m. and will be televised on TSN with former voice of the Raiders Brian Munz calling the game. Drew Wilson will also have the game on 900 CKBI Radio with his pre-game show starting at 2:55 p.m.
TELUS CUP NOTES: The tournament’s leading scorer – the Rockets’ Tanner Wishnowski (3-11-14) - was held off the scoresheet on Saturday…The game stars were Yaremchuk for Prince Albert and Jost for Okanagan…The Rockets will play the loser of the Chateauguay-Toronto semifinal in the bronze-medal game on Sunday at 11 a.m.