Mintos taking baby steps to nail down Telus Cup playoff spot

Dave Leaderhouse
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Prince Albert Mintos goalie Connor Ingram fights off Okanagan Rockets forward Tyson Jost and stops the puck Wednesday night at the Telus Cup midget AAA national hockey championship in Moose Jaw. Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie

MOOSE JAW - It’s baby steps, but the Prince Albert Mintos are slowly moving closer towards nailing down a playoff spot at the 2014 Telus Cup midget hockey championship being played here at Mosaic Place.

On Wednesday, the Mintos battled the skilled Okanagan Rockets to a 1-1 draw to improve their record to 1-0-2 after three days of competition leaving them in a tie – for the moment – for first place with the Grenadiers de Chateauguay. The Toronto Young Nationals would leap past them both with a win over the host Moose Jaw Generals in Wednesday’s late game, but results were unavailable.

“I’m definitely very happy with the way the team played,” said Minto forward Keegan Kjargaard, Prince Albert’s lone goalscorer in the game. “They’re a pretty skilled team that moves the puck well.”

“We have to make sure we get guys going to the net and get some dirty goals,” added Kjargaard.

The meeting between the Mintos and Rockets was highly anticipated as Okanagan brought with them a solid pedigree of skill and speed and Prince Albert head coach Ken Morrison was very satisfied with how his club handled those attributes.

“I’m real happy with the effort the guys put in,” said Morrison. “I’m happy with the two ties – they are points that we are heading in the right direction.”

“It would be nice to take fewer penalties,” added Morrison.

The officiating at the national tournament has been somewhat of a contentious bone this week as all three Prince Albert games have seen stretches where one team gets called for several infractions and then the table suddenly turns.

Wednesday’s game had a call in the second period where Prince Albert’s Jared Blaquiere bore down on the Okanagan net and once he fired his shot he fell into Rockets’ netminder Brendan Barry. Blaquiere was given a two-minute interference penalty to put the Mintos down two men.

“I asked about that and he (the official) said he (Blaquiere) had to get out of the way,” said Morrison simply. “We got some good kills against a pretty skilled team with the power play.”

The game was still scoreless going into the final period when Kjargaard pounced on a huge rebound offered up by Barry just 57 seconds into the final frame and it looked like Prince Albert might take that advantage to the dressing room. Some sloppy checking in the neutral zone, however, allowed Gen Bryshun to skate into the Prince Albert zone and fire a bullet just under the crossbar and past Minto netminder Connor Ingram.

Prince Albert still had a chance to grab the win and captain Teal Sobkowicz had the best opportunity when he got a breakaway with the clock winding down, but he lost control of the puck before getting a good scoring chance on Barry.

Prince Albert will now play the Moose Jaw Generals tonight at 7:30 p.m. in a game that should guarantee them some action on the weekend if they win. The Mintos and Generals played four times in the regular schedule with Moose Jaw winning three of those meetings.

It will be a special game for Minto forward Dakota Boutin, who started the year with the Generals before leaving them in November to come to Prince Albert.

TELUS CUP NOTES: Prince Albert has allowed just one goal in each of its three starts putting the Mintos on pace to eclipse a couple of records. The fewest goals allowed in one national championship is eight accomplished by the Lions du Lac St-Louis in 1992 while the fewest tallies given up in the round-robin portion of the tournament is four established by the 2007 Red Deer Rebels…Ingram finished the game with 31 saves and was named Prince Albert’s player of the game. Bryshun received the honour for the Rockets…The Okanagan line-up featured former Prince Albert Raider first-round bantam draft pick Jake Kryski. The 16-year-old forward was selected 13th overall last year, but was sent to the Kamloops Blazers in August in exchange for netminder Cole Cheveldave. Kryski saw plenty of ice time on Wednesday, but never really was a factor…In the early game on Wednesday Chateauguay pretty much killed the Halifax McDonald’s hopes of qualifying for the playoffs when they skated to a 7-3 victory. Prior to the late game on Wednesday the records were: Prince Albert and Chateauguay 1-0-2; Okanagan 0-0-3; Toronto 1-1-0; Moose Jaw 0-0-2; Halifax 0-2-1… The top four teams after the round-robin is completed on Friday will meet in semifinal action on Saturday. The winners of the semifinals will then square off in Sunday’s championship final while the losers will go head-to-head in the bronze-medal game.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Telus, Toronto Young Nationals

Geographic location: MOOSE JAW, Okanagan, Lac St-Louis

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