Mintos open regionals with 3-2 win over Kings

Andrew
Andrew Schopp
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Prince Albert Mintos forward Dakota Boutin colldies with  Thunder Bay
Kings goalie Bradley Hampton in the first period during their AAA
Midget Western Regionals tilt on Thursday evening at the Art Hauser
Centre in Prince Albert. Boutin was given a penalty on the play. For
complete coverageHerald photo by Perry Bergson

Even after a 20 day break, the Prince Albert Mintos showed little signs of rust heading into the 2014 Midget-AAA Western Regional Championship.

With a disappointing finish to their Saskatchewan Midget-AAA campaign behind them, the host Mintos stormed into the tournament, defeating the Thunder Bay Kings 3-2 on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre.

Working off a solid 44-point regular season campaign, forward Ryan Duret got things going for the Mintos, sliding the puck past Kings backstop Bradley Hamilton to open scoring a minute and a half into the game.

In a short tournament like the Western Regionals, securing that first victory is key, Mintos coach Ken Morrison said.

"It's huge," Morrison said of the Mintos opening win. "We haven't played in awhile so it's nice to get a win under your belt, head in the right direction and gain some momentum. Realistically if we win tomorrow it could put as in the final."

Keeping the pressure on Hamilton with a series of shots throughout the opening period, the Mintos added to their lead late in the frame after a shot dinged off the crossbar and found itself on the tape of forward Brody Madarash in front of the net.

Madarash, a reserve player who joined the Mintos for regionals, ripped his first of the tournament through the legs of Hamilton to carry a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Just as their second power play opportunity expired three and half minutes into the middle frame, the Kings cut into the lead as Ryan Burton fed right wing Laine McKay with a cross-ice pass which he one-timed past Mintos keeper Connor Ingram.

After a somewhat sluggish opening period, the Kings picked things up offensively in the second.

Thunder Bay coach Ian Swalucynski said his team felt like the game was

an opportunity lost. After the slow start, he thought the Kings

dominated the last part of the first along with the second and third

periods.

"We gave ourselves those chances by outworking them," Swalucynski

said. "We gave the game away, not because we played a team that took

advantage of us, it's because we made silly mistakes. We put it on a

platter for them."

With a series of strong passing plays, the Kings kept Ingram busy with 14 shots in the frame, but the 17-year-old Mintos backstop was sharp to hang onto the lead heading into the third period.

Three minutes into the third period, Kings left wing Tyler Minoletti netted  a rebound to tie things up but the Mintos were quick to respond, regaining the lead just over a minute later with a marker by Teal Sobkowicz.

Blanking the Kings on six power play opportunities throughout the night, Ingram continued to bail the Mintos out of penalty trouble late in the third period.

"Some of our penalties were in desperation trying to save a goal," Morrison said of his team's penalty troubles on Thursday. "Overall they weren't bad penalties but they were the result of us making errors, turning pucks over which we need to get out our game."

With Mintos forward Kody White in the box in the closing minutes of the third period, Ingram stood his ground, making a series of solid saves on his back to hang on to the lead.

On the heels of Ingram's 32-save performance between the pipes, Sobkowicz's marker stood as the game-winner as the Mintos hung on to secure their first victory of the tournament.

While the Mintos gained some valuable ground in the tournament, the Kings put themselves in a vulnerable position.

Swalucynski noted that it's going to take two wins to reach the final,

a goal still within reach for his team.

"I'm happy with the way the boys competed," Swalucynski said. "I'm happy with the way the

boys battled.  I think this right here will give us enough of a spark

to carry on."

The Mintos will be right back at it in round-robin play, taking on the Winnipeg Wild on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre. The puck drops at 8 p.m.

GAME NOTES: The Mintos entered regionals after falling to the Battlefords Stars in the second round of the SMAAAHL playoffs, finishing their regular season with a record of 28-11-4-1 ... Although falling to American prep school powerhouse Shattuck St. Mary’s in the Northern Lakes Hockey League championship series, the Kings qualified for regional's with a 2-1 series win over the Kenora Thistles to clinch the Hockey Northwestern Ontario AAA Branch Championship.

Organizations: Kings, Art Hauser Centre, Winnipeg Wild SMAAAHL Northern Lakes Hockey League Hockey Northwestern Ontario AAA Branch

Geographic location: Thunder Bay

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