The Prince Albert Mintos overcame a penalty-filled first period and a gritty Battlefords Stars team that didn’t quit to emerge with a tight 5-4 regulation time victory in Thursday night Midget AAA Hockey League action.
The P.A. club just had to wait until the game’s final 17 seconds to finish the job.
Tied 4-4 with the Stars in the final three minutes of the third period, the Mintos looked to be headed to overtime against their opponents; several puck-cycling plays and shot set-ups didn’t work for P.A., and the Stars’ defence managed to keep the game’s final few minutes in check.
But a late-game rush from Mintos forwards Kishaun Gervais and Austin Lamotte – kicked started by defencemen Alex Ozar and Alex Moar – sealed the win for P.A.
After Gervais carried the puck into the Stars’ zone, he passed it off to Lamotte as Stars goalie Carter Serhyenko tried to challenge the P.A. players a few feet outside of his crease.
“Austin gave me a really nice chip off the wall, and I managed to poke it between two guys. The goalie challenged me a lot, he came out, and I just managed to get a shot,” Gervais explained.
The puck bounced back to Gervais after his first shot; Serhyenko was well out of position away from his crease, looking on as a lone Stars skater played the role of impromptu goalie to try and save the game for his team.
Gervais slid the puck under the skater as he fell to the ice trying to corral the black rubber; 17 seconds remained in regulation and the Mintos were up 5-4.
“It felt like a weight off my shoulders,” Gervais said after the game. His game-winning goal was his fourth point of the night. He scored the opening goal in the first period, and he assisted on scores from Josh Pillar and Lamotte.
“It was an up and down game. We battled adversity, and got a penalty there early in the first (period). But we battled back, ended up working hard as a team, and we managed to get the win late.”
The Mintos started the game absent of Lamotte, who was assessed a 10 minute misconduct penalty to start the first period. Then Dylan Scriven took a kneeing penalty at 4:25 of the period to create a penalty kill scenario for the Mintos.
The team emerged from both those infractions unscathed, eventually going up 2-0 on Gervais’ and Josh Pillar’s goals.
But the officials called a bench minor penalty on the P.A. club, which the Stars capitalized on during the ensuring power play to cut the Mintos’ lead to one goal at 16:11.
Battlefords had the lone goal of the second period to tie the game 2-2.
The two clubs traded blows back and forth in the third period. Starting with Luke Nkwama’s power play score, the Mintos went up by a goal, the Stars tied the score; the Mintos went up by a goal, the Stars tied the score again.
That left the game tied at 4-4 with 2:24 left to play. Gervais, Lamotte and co. finished it for the P.A. club.
After the game, Lamotte commended his line mates, saying he likes where he, Pillar and Gervais are at in terms of their chemistry at this point in the season.
“I’ve played with Josh lots before, so with him everything came together nice and perfect, because we’re used to each other. With Kishaun, it took a little while there, but once we got going, she’s going good,” he said.
Looking at Thursday’s game overall, Mintos head coach Ken Morrison said, “It was a back and forth game. (The Stars) work hard and they were taking the body. I thought it was a good game.”
He said he was happy with his team’s win and the Mintos’ effort, but also pointed out he wants to see better execution from his players, especially as they prepare for their final regular season game before starting the playoffs.
The Mintos (31-9-2-1) will play their final regular season game against the Tisdale Trojans (28-9-1-3) on Saturday in Tisdale. They’ve qualified for this year’s playoffs, but they don’t yet know who their opponent will be.
The team is ranked in third place and will likely stay in that spot. If they finish in third, they’ll play the league’s sixth place team.
“We just have to play our best on Saturday here. We want to come out big and play our best game, going into the playoffs,” Lamotte said. “And then work hard during practices … we have a week of practices (before playoffs start), and then go hard.”
The Mintos will open their postseason on Friday, Feb. 23 at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m.