Mintos turn tables on Blazers in home opener

The Prince Albert Mintos jumped out to a three-goal first period lead and never looked back, downing the Saskatoon Blazers 6-3 in their home opener at the Art Hauser Centre.

Captain Kody Willick had a hat trick and goaltender Kris Johnson made 35 saves, as the Mintos bounced back from an 8-3 drubbing in Saskatoon on Friday for their first win of the year.

Spencer Bell had two goals for the Blazers, while Alex Garrett made 15 saves in goal.

Minto coach Danton Danielson said he wanted his young team to be better in their own end on Sunday, and that’s exactly what happened.

“We thought that was lacking last game—giving them a lot of time up top in our defensive zone—and they were able to get pucks through and beat our goalie,” Danielson said after Sunday’s win. “Tonight, we didn’t give them that much time. We worked on that in practice yesterday, made a few tweaks. My philosophy is to always try to find that one thing game to game that you can maybe fix and improve on, and focus on that. I thought we did a better job of that tonight.”

The Mintos opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game when a point shot took a deflection in front and beat Garrett stick side. Gage Helm received credit for the goal, and he was at it again roughly 10 minutes later, beating the Blazer netminder top shelf on a shorthanded breakaway.

Zachary Bansley made it 3-0 with just over five minutes to play in the first period. He beat Garrett on another breakaway, this time on the power play, but received a game misconduct for checking from behind not long after.

The Mintos continued their onslaught in the second, when Willick tapped a rebound into an open goal just seconds after defenceman Rhett Ravndahl hit the post.

After falling behind early in their first two games, Danielson said it was vital for his team to flip the script and get out in front. He credited Willick and Helm for helping them do that.

“You need your leaders to lead, and those guys did,” Danielson told reporters afterwards. “They’re wearing the letters for a reason.”

“We wound up down early in both games before this one, and I think with a young team, you get a little bit demoralized when that can happen,” he added. “It was nice to have a couple go in early, flip the script a little bit on them and play from ahead instead of from behind.”

Spencer Bell got one back for the Blazers around the midway point of the second period. His quick shot beat Johnson glove side to make it 4-1.

The visitors through a scare into the hometown crowd midway through the third, with two goals just 65 seconds apart to make it 4-3.

However, Willick put the game out of reach with another breakaway goal with 9:21 to play, and a shorthanded empty-netter in the final minute.

The win means the MIntos improve to 1-2-0 on the year. The Warman Wildcats and Yorkton Maulers are now the only winless teams left in the league. It was also the first loss of the year for the Saskatoon Blazers, who now sit with a 2-1-0 record.

The Mintos are off until Friday when they play the first game of a home-and-home with the Warman Wildcats. Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.

Sunday’s home opener featured mandatory masking and limited seating. Entire sections of the stadium were covered in blue tarps, while garbage bags covered seats next to the aisles in rows that were open. Fans were required to enter from the south main entrance doors only and exit from the south doors. The measures will likely still be in place for Friday’s contest.

Prince Albert’s original home opener was scheduled for Nov. 9 against Tisdale. The game was cancelled due to bad weather.

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