Battlefords Stars backstop Rylan Toth makes a save on Prince Albert Mintos Loch Morrison. Lifting the Stars to a 4-1 triumph over the Mintos on Thursday, Toth improved his record to 9-2-1 as stopped 24 of 25 shots in SMAAAHL action at the Art Hauser Centre. Herald photo by Andrew Schopp
The Prince Albert Mintos lost some valuable ground in their quest for the SMAAAHL's No. 1 spot as they fell to the Battlefords Stars 4-1 on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Winning their eighth straight game, the Stars came within a single point of the league leading Notre Dame Argos who the Mintos now trail by six points in the standings.
Mintos coach Ken Morrison agreed, clinching that No. 1 spot and home ice advantage in the playoffs is of the utmost importance to the team.
"It's nice to have," Morrison said. "That's what our goal is so we'll just keep working towards it."
Both teams battled hard through a scoreless first period in which Mintos starting goalie Connor Ingram stood his ground, stopping eight shots while blanking the Stars on a pair of power play opportunities.
Outshooting the Stars a modest 9-8 in the first period, the Mintos played a tight, well disciplined defensive game before things unraveled in the final two periods, where they could not keep themselves out of the penalty box.
"We took to many penalties and they have a good power play," Morrison said of the Mintos who took six penalties in the final 40 minutes of play. "They scored two on the power play which we made a mistake on. That was basically the difference."
While Ingram remained vigilant between the pipes, Stars goalie Rylan Toth was equally impressive, stopping 24 of 25 shots en route to his ninth win of the season.
With six minutes remaining in the second period, the Stars netted a pair of power play goals, proving to be the difference.
Stars rookie forward Kaleb Dahlgren netted the game's opening goal on the power play which the crowd, along with Morrison, believed did not pass the goal line.
"I didn't think it was in the net," Morrison said. "You could hear it hit the post."
Just over three minutes later, the Mintos struck back with a power play goal of their own when Loch Morrison ripped a slap shot from the point on net which rookie forward Jared Blaquiere tipped past Toth.
Shortly after the Mintos scored their lone goal, the Stars regained the lead yet again on the power play with a marker from rookie defenceman Alex Pernitsky, lifting the Stars to a 2-1 lead going into the third period.
With the Mintos taking the lion's share of the game's penalties, Morrison agreed the officiating of Thursday's game was questionable.
"There was a little bit of frustration with the consistency of the calls," Morrison said. "Our guy got checked from behind, it was obvious, everyone in the in the rink sees it but none of the arms go up and then we hit a guy from behind and both arms go up."
Seven minutes into the third period, Pernitsky hammered a slap shot from the point to net his second of the night. Four minutes later, the Mintos turned the puck over in their own zone, allowing forward Josh LaFramboise to break in all alone, scoring shorthanded on the breakaway to put the game on ice.
With their second-straight loss, the Mintos record fell to 22-8-4, as they continue to chase the No. 1 playoff seed.
The Mintos will be back in action on Saturday when they take on the Notre Dame Hounds on the road at the Duncan McNeill Arena.
MINTO NOTES: Not dressed for the Mintos on Thursday were Braden Lozinski, Rhys Kipling, Ryan Duret and Keegan Kjargaard ... The Mintos have allowed the fewest goals in the league by a wide margin with just 70 in 35 games. Behind them, allowing the second fewest goals are the Moose Jaw Generals with 86 ... Mintos backstop Connor Ingram posts the league's leading Goals Against Average of 1.59 going into Thursday's game. Ingram posts an impressive record of 12-2-3 ... Former Mintos backstop Taran Kozun was named the Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the week on Tuesday. After being dealt to the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds by the Kamloops Blazers prior to the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline, Kozun won his first four games in his new uniform, two of them were shutouts.