Preview: Discipline and adversity key for Mintos vs. Hounds

Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk (12) says his team needs to be disciplined and stick to even-strength hockey versus the Hounds. -- Daily Herald File Photo

P.A. club heads to Wilcox today for game 1 in Midget AAA league final vs. ND Hounds

The Prince Albert Mintos today begin their shot at a provincial Midget AAA Hockey League championship.

The team squares off this evening in Wilcox against the Notre Dame Hounds for game 1 of the best-of-five league final series.

Prior to the start of the series, players and coaches on the Mintos identified discipline and adversity as two keys to beating the Hounds.

“Their power play is a big threat. These playoffs, probably 50 per cent of their goals have been on the power play,” Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk said of the Hounds. “So we need to just stay disciplined, stay out of the box, and we should be good.”

Through four regular season games against the Hounds this year, the Mintos didn’t win a contest. However, three of those four losses were by a single goal, one of which was an overtime win for the Hounds. Notre Dame’s other win was by a score of 2-0.

Sopotyk also underscored the Hounds’ offensive abilities.

“We know they have four good lines and they do a good job offensively. So we just need to do our job defensively and get pucks out (of our zone).”

He expects the game to be a hard-fought, physical battle with both teams doing their fair share of checking.

Mintos goalie Cale Elder agreed.

“It’s going to be pretty aggressive: Lots of hitting, lots of pucks deep. It’s going to be a battle. We’re both pretty good teams, and we’re both going to be working pretty hard.”

He also pointed to the Hounds’ power play as an area the Mintos need to watch for. “We’ve been doing pretty good, keeping our discipline,” Elder said.

In terms of postseason scoring, each team has plenty of firepower.

Prince Albert Mintos goalie Cale Elder (30) makes a save on a shot from Notre Dame Hounds forward Max Messier (5) during the second period of the teams’ SMAAAHL game from P.A. on Feb. 10, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Of the league’s top 10 playoffs points leaders, eight are on the two teams – three on the Mintos and five on the Hounds.

As for advice and support, Elder will be using his older brother, Caden, in addition to his Mintos teammates and coaches.

Caden Elder is a forward with the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos. Last year, he and the Broncos pushed the red-hot Regina Pats to the brink, nearly eliminating them in the second round of playoffs.

This year, the Broncos are eying another deep playoff run, with their round 1 series versus Regina starting on Friday.

“He’s always been there. It’s been great. If I’ve ever had anything going wrong, he’s always been someone I can talk to,” Cale said. “He’s always had great advice, just for keeping my head and working as hard as I can and not giving up.”

Cale and fellow Mintos goalie Carter Woodside have a slight edge over the two Hounds netminders, although all four are close this postseason. Through four games played, Elder has a 0.94 save percentage, and Woodside has a 0.96 save percentage through two games played.

Meanwhile, Hounds goalies Riley Kohonick and Aaron Randazzo each have a 0.92 save percentage through three playoff games played per each.

According to Mintos head coach Ken Morrison, the other key to the series is adversity, specifically creating some for the Hounds, he said.

“These guys haven’t had a lot of adversity. We need to plant the seed that we’re to be reckoned with, and plant that seed of doubt and create some adversity for them, and see how they handle it. Easier said than done,” the coach said.

That means, “we have to create enough pressure on them that they start to lose their composure, start to doubt themselves … we’ve got to make them get back on their heals and try and make them adjust to us.”

Morrison also noted that, “We’re in a good spot, because we’re the underdogs. Nobody expects us to win. It was the same thing last series. It’s less pressure for us.”

Looking ahead to game 1 on Wednesday evening, Sopotyk said the main goal is just winning the first game, especially because it’s an away game on the road.

“Hopefully we get the first one and get some momentum going to start the series. Everyone’s excited and everyone’s ready to go.”

Here’s the full schedule for the Mintos-Hounds championship final series.

Round 3, provincial championship final round:

(1) Notre Dame Hounds vs. (3) Prince Albert Mintos

Mintos’ round 3 playoff schedule:

Game 1 – March 21, 8 p.m. at Notre Dame’s Duncan McNeill Arena in Wilcox

Game 2 – March 24, 7 p.m. at P.A.’s Art Hauser Centre

Game 3 – March 28, 7:30 p.m. at Notre Dame’s Duncan McNeill Arena in Wilcox

Game 4 (if necessary) – March 30, 7 p.m. at P.A.’s Art Hauser Centre

Game 5 (if necessary) – April 1, 1:30 p.m. at Notre Dame’s Duncan McNeill Arena in Wilcox