Despite their speed and tendency for long, stretch passes, the Prince Albert Mintos couldn’t get past the Tisdale Trojans’ stingy defence in Thursday night provincial Midget AAA Hockey League action from Prince Albert’s Art Hauser Centre
The visiting Trojans beat the Mintos 3-1, thanks in large part to effective neutral-zone and own-zone defence as well as stable goaltending from rookie goalie Tanner Martin.
While the play between both teams was evenly matched, it was the Trojans who proved to have the more effective game plan: They stifled the Mintos’ long, stretch passes through the middle of the ice, and they made a habit of boxing out P.A.’s speedy offensive threats from Martin’s crease.
“I thought we battled hard, but we came up about three minutes short,” Mintos coach Bryan Swystun said after the game. “They capitalized on some giveaways that we’d sure like to have back.”
The teams started the second period with the Mintos up 1-0 after team captain Kyrell Sopotyk scored on a quick backhand shot in front of Martin at 1:02 of the first period.
The Trojans soon evened the score after Colton Schell scored on a two-on-one play at 1:58 of the second period. The play started from just inside the Trojans’ blue line, after defenceman Carter Lake sent the puck up to forward Rhett Frey.
The two teams continued pressing each other; P.A. tried to generate quick puck movement through the neutral zone, while Tisdale kept a tight forecheck deep in the P.A.’s zone to try foiling its passing game.
The Trojans’ next goal wound up being the game-winner, and it killed the momentum the Mintos had been riding for much of the game.
While short-handed, penalty killer Andrew Hawes was pressing the Mintos’ defencemen at their blue line. As defenceman Alex Moar tried passing the puck out of his zone to the centre line, Hawes intercepted the pass. He created an open path for himself to skate and shoot on goalie Cart Woodside; he made sure to roof his wrist shot top shelf.
“They run the powerplay off Moar going up from (our) forecheck, so I just read him,” Hawes said of his interception. “Usually I like to pick that top corner; tonight it just felt good – I got the shots in warm-ups good – so I felt like shooting there.”
After the game, Swystun underscored his team’s few, but crucial, mental mistakes that allowed Tisdale to create offensive chances.
“They played hard, played well and took advantage of our mistakes. That’s what happens in this league – you cannot make mental mistakes. We made a few too many tonight.
“Two or three passes we tried to go up the middle, instead of making an easy play up the wall. I mean they didn’t score on two of them, but of course they got the third goal because of it.”
The Mintos’ coach emphasized how that goal swung momentum for the Trojans.
“It’s like a brick in the balloon. Everybody on the bench kind of comes down a little bit, and we did our best to try and keep the guys rallied.”
The Trojans added their even-strength, third goal for insurance at 1:11 of the third period. Frey tallied the score.
“When your’e down two, guys want to try and do it themselves, and as a unit we probably weren’t that good in the last three minutes. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Thursday’s game was the third of four meetings between the two teams this season. It was the first of the three contests that was won in regulation time, and it was the first game that was won by more than one goal.
The Trojans hold the season series edge at two games to one. The pair will next square off on Feb. 17 in Tisdale.
The Mintos (27-5-2-1) remain in the league’s second spot. They next play on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. against the first-place Notre Dame Hounds (31-1-0-2) at the Art Hauser Centre.
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Mintos completed a quick, south Saskatchewan road trip during which they played the Hounds (Saturday) and the Moose Jaw Generals (Sunday).
On Saturday, the Hounds came back to tie the game and force overtime, during which they won 4-3 off the stick of Brad Morrissey. Kishaun Gervais, Josh Pillar and Austin Lamotte scored the Mintos in that game.
Meanwhile, on Sunday the Mintos beat the Generals 5-3 in regulation time. Gervais, Lamotte, Parker Fofonoff and Alex Moar (2) scored for the Mintos’ win.