The second game in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League quarter-final matchup between the Saskatoon Blazers and the Prince Albert Mintos started out quite differently than Sunday’s wild 7-6 affair in Saskatoon.
After the teams both found the back of the net on three occasions during the opening frame Wednesday, the third-ranked Blazers would take the lead in the middle stanza and hold on from there as they evened up the best-of-five series with a 5-4 triumph over the sixth-seeded Mintos at the Art Hauser Centre.
“It was a funny game tonight,” Blazers head coach Scott Scissons said. “I don’t think anyone really felt comfortable out there and it was one of those nights where whoever had the last shot was going to have a chance of winning.”
“These last two games have been back and forth, but we know that we can compete with the Blazers,” Mintos captain Alex Ozar added. “If we can get back to playing our game, we can come out on top.”
The two teams combined to score five power play goals in the opening 20 minutes, with Ozar lighting the lamp twice to help the Mintos take a 3-2 lead before Carter Stebbings evened up the contest with 2:07 left in the frame.
“That was easily the wildest period we’ve played all year,” Ozar said. “We have spent a lot of time here working on our power play lately and everything came together for us in the first when we had our chances.”
“There were times where we were started to scratch out heads a little bit on the bench with what was taking place,” Scissons added. “When both power plays were executing like that, it’s tough to try and stop them.”
James Form would score twice in the second period to give the Blazers a lead they would never relinquish, although Gavin Ingram was able to get the Mintos within one during the midway mark of the second period with his third goal of the series.
“We started to let them come at us a little bit more in the second period and we also got into some penalty trouble,” Ozar said. “Once we got away from our game, that allowed them to get those two goals.”
After Nolan Allan led the Blazers on Sunday with a five-point outing, fellow blueliner Zach Gabruch paced the visitors on offence Wednesday with a goal and three assists.
“Zach’s a real pillar for us on the backend and he played a really strong game for us,” Scissons said.
“Even though he didn’t have as many points tonight, Nolan’s a guy who is dominant any time he is on the ice. The fans in Prince Albert are going to have a lot of fun watching him and (Kaiden) Guhle play for the Raiders over the next few years.”
Carter Stebbings had a goal and two assists for the Blazers, who also got an offensive contribution from Charlie Keller and a 26 save showing from Matthew Pesenti.
Gabe Klassen, who missed Sunday’s game due to an illness, matched his teammate Andrew Schaab on offence as they each recorded three assists to lead the way for the Mintos.
Chase Bertholet had the other goal for the hosts, who received a 38-save performance from Carter Woodside.
With head coach Ken Morrison already up in the stands serving a seven-game suspension for a game misconduct penalty he received at the end of Sunday’s contest, the Mintos also lost the services of forward Ethan Ironside early in the second period as he was ejected from the contest after a hit from behind on Gabruch.
The two sides will now prepare to square off in Saskatoon at 7:45 p.m. Friday, with Game 4 being held at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m. Saturday.
A fifth and deciding game, if required, would take place at the Rod Hamm Memorial Arena at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, the other three quarter-final matchups in the SMAAAHL ended in clean sweeps.
The Regina Pat Canadians and the Tisdale Trojans took care of the Saskatoon Contacts and the Beardy’s Blackhawks on Tuesday, while the Notre Dame Hounds wrapped up their series against the Swift Current Legionnaires Wednesday.
The Blazers would face the Trojans if they were to advance, while the Mintos would take on the top-ranked Pat Canadians.