When asked what stood out about former forward Jacob Leicht, Prince Albert Mintos head coach Ken Morrison immediately thought of what he saw him do at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary two years ago.
“I don’t know how many shots he blocked,” Morrison said “We really should have kept track of how many he did that whole week.
“He was a heart and soul guy that did all the things that some guys don’t want to do like blocking shots or killing penalties. He deserved to make the (Humboldt) Broncos last year with how well he played for us.”
The Mintos paid tribute to Leicht, who lost his life in the Broncos bus accident on April 6, during their home opener Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre against the Moose Jaw Generals as every player on the squad wore his name on the back of their jersey.
His number 11 jersey will remain in circulation with the program, and will be worn this year by forward Gavin Ingram.
“I got to skate with Jakob a little bit when I played in Humboldt (for the Midget AA Broncos) so to wear his number here is an honour,” Ingram said. “There’s a few of us doing that this year on different teams to pay tribute to him.
“I got the chance to get in contact with his mother Celeste during the summer and got their blessing to wear his jersey. It’s going to be some pretty big shoes to try and fill.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Leicht family received a bronze stick with his name, number, the Mintos logo and the saying ‘Once a Minto, Always a Minto’ engraved on it.
The stick was designed by sculptor Thomas Schultz, who is a firefighter in Nipawin and was among the first responders at the accident scene in April.
“You see stuff there that you really don’t expect to see, so that was a tough experience for everyone,” Schultz said.
“It’s quite an honour to be commissioned to do this for the Leicht family. Merle (Kozun) came to me at the end of June and we started to do the design work and everything that goes into it. It’s been well received by the Mintos and hopefully the family feels the same way.”
As for the home opener, the Mintos hit the ground running as Chase Bertholet scored his first career Midget AAA goal just 50 seconds into the first period.
Bertholet and Dawson Springer paced the offence with two goals each as the hosts skated away with a 6-3 win over the Generals.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from this game,” Morrison said. “Moose Jaw has a veteran team over there and I was just hoping that we didn’t end up getting blown out 8-2 or something like that.
“I’m very happy with how the guys have bought in to what we’ve taughtthem. We’ve thrown a lot of things at them over the last three practices, and they’ve responded well.”
Gabe Klassen had a goal and an assist in the triumph, while Turner McMillen also found the back of the net.
Carter Woodside, who was returned to the Mintos from the Regina Pats Friday, made 20 saves.
Brendan Kemp, Casey McDonald and Ben Wourms-Rowe all scored for the Generals, who will pay a visit to the Beardy’s Blackhawks Sunday.
Reece Hodson got the start for the visitors but was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 17 shots.
Jaxon Taupert finished out the contest and made 11 saves.
“It’s a disappointing start for sure,” Generals head coach Ray Wareham said. “We just made too many mistakes.
“We had a bad line change that led to their first goal early on and we just played catch up the rest of the night. It just wasn’t good enough.”
The Mintos will be back in action Sunday at 1:30 p.m. when the Swift Current Legionnaires will visit the Art Hauser Centre.
The Legionnaires were opening up their season Saturday night on the road against the Blackhawks.