After scoring 17 times in their first three playoff games against the third best defence in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this season, the Prince Albert Mintos offence went ice-cold at an ill-opportune time Saturday.
With a chance to advance to the semifinals on home ice, the Mintos could only muster 21 shots on goals and found themselves on the penalty kill on eight occasions as they fell 3-0 to the Saskatoon Blazers in game four of their quarter-final series.
“We didn’t play very well,” said Mintos assistant coach Bryan Swystun, who is leading the way behind the bench as head coach Ken Morrison serves a seven-game suspension. “We had some guys on the penalty kill for eight straight minutes and we need to have all three lines rolling if we want to have success against these guys.
“We shot ourselves in the foot tonight. We talked a lot about staying disciplined and being first to the puck, which we did in the first three games. That didn’t happen tonight and they got some confidence going on the other side as a result.”
With the win, the third-ranked Blazers forced a fifth and deciding game against the sixth-seeded Mintos, which will take place at the Rod Hamm Memorial Arena in Saskatoon at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“That was our most complete game of the series so far,” Blazers head coach Scott Scissons said. “We stuck to our game plan and we didn’t try to take many risks, which is something that we got caught doing in the first three games, especially in our rink.”
Josh Nagy, James Form and Alec Saretzky all scored for the Blazers, while Matthew Pesenti stopped every shot he faced for his first shutout of the year.
“He’s one of those veterans that wants to have the chance to bounce back and step up when his team needs him,” Scissons said.
“It’s nice to see him get a shutout, as he’s had a few chances this year but we’ve always allowed a late goal to prevent him from getting it.”
A night after he stopped 49 shots in Saskatoon, Spencer Welke was stellar once again for the Mintos as he made 43 saves and kept his team in the contest.
“Spencer’s been competing well and he’s the type of guy that the rest of the team wants to help out when he’s playing well,” Swystun said.
“That didn’t happen tonight, but our guys were able to respond with some goals to help him out on Friday. If we can get back to how we’ve played in the first three games, we should do well in Saskatoon, as we’ve had them on their heels at times.”
The Mintos, who will welcome Alex Von Sprecken into the lineup after he served a one-game suspension Saturday for a checking from behind penalty a night earlier, would face the top-ranked Regina Pat Canadians if they were to advance.
Meanwhile, the Blazers would go up against the second-seeded Tisdale Trojans in the semifinal round if they were to become the first team to win a game at home in the series.
“I think you are going to see two really sharp teams going against each other tomorrow and the team that limits their mistakes is going to be the one that comes out on top,” Scissons said.