Prince Albert Mintos Lance Yaremchuk and Teal Sobkowicz stand in front of the team’s two other Telus Cup championship banners at the Art Hauser Centre on Wednesday afternoon. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
He could have been a Flin Flon Bomber, but Prince Albert Mintos forward Lance Yaremchuk has no regrets.
After starting his 2014 season in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders, the team re-assigned Yaremchuk on Nov. 12 with GM Bruno Campese citing a fully stocked roster preventing the 17-year-old from playing significant minutes.
Yaremchuk was given a choice between joining the Bombers in the SJHL, or reuniting with his former Mintos, with whom he had previously tallied 84 points in two SMAAAHL campaigns.
“They just couldn’t fit me in for ice time,” Yaremchuk said of the Raiders move to send him down. “Now that I look back at it I agree with their decision.”
As the host team, the Mintos were guaranteed a spot in the 2014 Western Regional tournament in Prince Albert.
It was that tournament, where the Mintos punched their ticket to the Telus Cup, which clinched Yaremchuk’s decision to re-join his former team.
“Definitely it was Westerns,” Yaremchuk said of choosing the Mintos over the Bombers. “I spent two years trying to make it there and I though I’d take another crack at it, otherwise I would have been in Flin Flon.”
Back with his old club, Yaremchuk immediately made an impact in the SMAAAHL, scoring 31 points in 20 regular season games for the Mintos.
Yaremchuk’s captain, Mintos forward Teal Sobkowicz agreed that getting the 17-year-old winger from the Raiders was just what the doctor ordered.
“It was definitely a huge turning point,” Sobkowicz said of the Mintos mid-season acquisition. “Having him back definitely helped out a lot.”
Yaremchuk’s contributions to the Mintos came to ahead in the team’s Telus Cup final against the Grenadiers de Chateauguay on Sunday in Moose Jaw where on a two-on-one, he fed the puck to Dakota Boutin in triple overtime to clinch the team’s third national championship.
Having just returned to the bench for a line change prior to the overtime marker, Sobkowicz said it was clear the pair were going to score once the Grenadiers turned the puck over to hand the Mintos the two-on-one opportunity.
“Lance got the puck and broke through the neutral zone,” Sobkowicz recalled. “Everybody got up and was watching, he passed it over and everybody just went nuts.”
Although now the top midget team in the country, the Minto’s triumph in Moose Jaw came with a bit of heartbreak before it.
Beaten up and depleted after a tough first round playoff series with the Tisdale Trojans, the Mintos were swept by the Battlefords Stars in the second round, ending their SMAAAHL season.
Despite the Mintos failure to capture the league crown, Yaremchuk and Sobkowicz both agreed that the team’s early exit was a blessing in disguise, as it gave the them more than two weeks to rest up and prepare for Regionals.
Sobkowicz added that had the Mintos been healthy and well rested, they would have had a good shot at taking the best-of-five series against the Stars.
“We definitely would have had a better chance,” Sobkowicz said. “We would have had all four lines instead of just two with some extras. Everybody was pretty tired going into the playoffs.”
Even without a league title, things worked themselves out for the Mintos, a team Yaremchuk described as a rag-tag bunch with no big names on the roster, but a tireless work ethic.
“We are definitely an unexpected group,” Yaremchuk said. “We’re just a bunch of random kids thrown together, there’s no superstars or anything, but we made a good team out of it.”
With a Telus Cup championship now on his resume, Yaremchuk’s chances of cracking the Raiders roster next season have increased significantly.
Meanwhile Sobkowicz, who is graduating from the midget level, will be testing the waters of several offers from teams in British Columbia, while his rights are held by the Melfort Mustangs in the SJHL.
For now, the pair will take some much earned time off to bask in the glory of their championship, while making plans to get inked like the 2007 Telus Cup winning Mintos before them.
“I think that was one of the first things I said was ‘if we win the Telus, we are getting tattoos,” Yaremchuk said.