Coming off two victories at the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League showcase in Warman last weekend, the Prince Albert Mintos were eager to keep their winning ways going Wednesday at the Art Hauser Centre.
Instead, they found themselves playing catch up from the word go.
A goal by Zach Gabruch just 16 seconds into the game set the stage for a three-goal first period by the visiting Saskatoon Blazers as they came away with a 5-3 win.
“I thought we had about six or seven quality opportunities to score in the first frame, but we just couldn’t put anything in the net,” Mintos head coach Ken Morrison said. “We got within a goal in the second period, but we took a penalty when we were on the power play and we were on our heels for the last 10 minutes of that period.
“We got outplayed for the majority of the game tonight and we didn’t deserve to win. We had our chances, but we didn’t bare down on them.”
For the Blazers, Wednesday’s triumph was their fifth to start the season as they are the only team in the SMAAAHL with a perfect record.
“We certainty aren’t complaining about how things are going, especially after a tough time last year,” Blazers head coach Scott Scissons said. “We’re starting to make some changes in the right direction here and we’ve had some really great kids join us this season.
“We were a little fortunate tonight as it could have been 3-0 the other way after this first period. It wasn’t our best effort, but we are still a young team and it’s all a process for us.”
Cole Nagy led the way for the Blazers with a goal and two assists, while Gabruch scored and dished out a helper.
Keenan Allan, Nolan Allan and Rhett Gibson each lit the lamp for the visitors, who received a 22-save performance from Brett Mirwald.
Andrew Schaab paced the Mintos on offence with a goal and an assist, while Alex Ozar had a two-assist night.
Alex Von Sprecken and Cohner Saleski also scored in the loss, which saw Carter Woodside turn aside 26 shots.
Prior to their return to home ice, the Mintos turned in a successful showing at the league’s annual showcase in Warman as they picked up a 4-1 win over the Moose Jaw Generals Friday and topped the Swift Current Legionnaires 7-3 Sunday.
Chase Bertholet led the way Friday with a goal and an assist, while Saleski and Dawson Springer both scored a pair of goals Sunday.
“I was really happy with how we played there,” Morrison said. “The guys worked hard and they did a lot of good things.
“The Blazers are a little bit of a higher level than what Moose Jaw and Swift Current are at though, and we’ll need to learn and keep improving if we want to challenge those top teams.”
The next test for the 3-2 Mintos will come on Friday night as they’ll visit the 3-1 Tisdale Trojans, who will be the host team for the Telus Cup West Regional tournament later this season.
“That’s another good challenge for us,” Morrison said.
“Even though we lost, I felt like we weren’t far away from the Blazers tonight, and that’s a good sign.”
Solid Start for Allen
The move up to the Midget AAA ranks has gone well so far for signed Prince Albert Raiders prospect Nolan Allan.
After being picked third overall in May’s WHL Bantam Draft, the 15-year-old from Davidson has four points in five games for the Blazers following a two-year stint with the Humboldt Bantam AA Broncos.
“Nolan’s a special player,” Scissons said. “He brings confidence and has a bit of a swagger about him, but he’s also extremely humble.
“We’re fortunate to have (former WHL defenceman) Richie Regehr with us as an assistant coach to mentor Nolan and our other defencemen. You can see he’s getting better in every practice and I think you’ll see him continue to improve all season.”
Barring any callups by the Raiders, the next visit by Allan to his future home will come on Feb. 24, 2019 when the Blazers battle the Mintos in their regular season finale.