The Notre Dame Hounds used systematic neutral zone pressure, strong defensive play and a 27-save shutout from goalie Riley Kohonick to best the Prince Albert Mintos 2-0 in provincial Midget AAA hockey league action Sunday afternoon at the Art Hauser Centre.
The game was the third of four meetings between the two teams, who entered weekend play ranked first and second in the 12-team league (Notre Dame in first place and Prince Albert in second place).
With their win, the Hounds now lead the regular season series three games to none against P.A.
“They’re a good team,” Kohonick said of the Mintos. “They come at us hard every game, and they’re well-respected – they’re in second (place) for a reason. Every time we play them, we know it’s gonna be a tough battle.”
While the Mintos relied on their speed and quick, long transition passes out of their zone to generate offensive chances, the Hounds’ feisty forwards gummed up the neutral zone to slow down and disrupt the Mintos’ attempts.
When the Mintos managed to begin puck cycling systems in the Hounds’ end, Notre Dame used its hard-checking defencemen to limit and box out P.A.’s shooting chances.
“They were stopping them at the blue line, making them have to dump pucks in and letting me play the puck,” the Hounds’ second-year goalie said. “At the end when there was lots of scrambling, (my teammates) were diving in there.”
The Mintos peppered Kohonick with 15 shots in the final period, which included three loose-puck scrambles in front of his net during the final 10 minutes.
At that point, keeping the shutout intact meant he had to sprawl out on his back to keep the puck out, and when he was down, his teammates played the role of impromptu goalie, stopping short-range shots.
“The saves they made helped me settle down for sure,” Kohonick said of his teammates.
Despite the loss, Mintos head coach Ken Morrison said he was proud of his team for its effort. “I was just really happy with our guys. They gave us as much as they can give; that’s all you can ask.”
P.A. limited the Hounds’ offensive chances and kept their total shot count to 25. Notre Dame scored its goals in the first and second periods, courtesy of Stanley Cooley on the powerplay and Quinn Schmiemann, respectively.
“We kind of held the fort in the first period there and had a lot of zone time in our end, but I thought we played ok defensively,” he explained.
“We made a couple of mistakes: We took a bad penalty and they scored on the powerplay, and then we got beat on a one-on-one down the wall, which made it 2-0.
“Our powerplay has to be a bit better against a team like this, but they’re a good team … they try to keep everything to the outside as much as they can. They all can skate and they’re a good team.”
Despite seven powerplay opportunities, the Mintos couldn’t convert on a single one, thanks in large part to the Hounds’ defensive play.
“I don’t think they do anything extraordinary system-wise or anything. They’re just good at what they do, and they’ve got lots of depth,” Morrison said.
Eight days ago in Wilcox, the south Saskatchewan village home to the Hounds and Athol Murray College, the Mintos were up 3-1 on the Hounds by the start of the third period. But the Notre Dame squad forced overtime and completed the comeback for a 4-3 win in the extra frame.
The Hounds and Mintos will square off one more time in the regular season, Feb. 10 at the Art Hauser Centre in P.A.
The Mintos (27-6-2-1) now sit in third place in the 12-team league. They’re four points back of the Regina Pat Canadians (29-5-2-1) and 11 points back of the Hounds (33-1-0-2).
The Mintos next play on Wednesday evening against the Battlfords Stars (14-21-0-1) in Battleford.