3rd time’s an OT charm for Mintos, Nkwama

Prince Albert MIntos forward Austin Lamotte (19) checks Saskatoon Contacts defenceman Luke Penner in the third period of the teams' Jan. 11, 2018 game from Prince Albert. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos are tending towards the dramatic since returning from the Christmas break.

The Saskatchewan Midget AAA boys hockey team beat the Saskatoon Contacts 2-1 in overtime Thursday night, marking the third of three games in the New Year that they’ve needed extra time for a win.

Last weekend on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, the Mintos won back-to-back away games in overtime against the Yorkton Maulers.

On Thursday, forward Luke Nkwama netted his team’s game-winning goal against the Contacts, 36 seconds into overtime. The puck bounced loose after a quick rebound in front of Saskatoon’s net, and a waiting Nkwama banged it home.

After the game, he was all business and humility.

“The team worked hard all game. I just do whatever I can to help the team win. Tonight it ended up being scoring; tomorrow it might be blocking a shot or something. So it’s just a great feeling.”

The Mintos and Contacts skated to a scoreless first period. Saskatoon got on the scoreboard first, with a second period goal from Brodie Girod 29 seconds into the frame.

Prince Albert wasn’t exactly playing catch-up – the Mintos controlled puck possession and offensive zone pressure for most of the frame. But the Contacts edged P.A. in terms of shot count; and the Mintos couldn’t crack goalie Rayce Ramsay.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Nkwama said. “Our whole game was pretty average I thought. We found a way to score at the end. It was nice to keep the streak alive and keep winning.”

Less than four minutes to go in the game, P.A. cracked the goose egg and gave themselves a chance for the win. Defenceman Kade McMillen’s point shot at 16:04 of the third period beat a screened Ramsay top shelf.

That was enough momentum for the Mintos to finish regulation play tied at 1-1 and head to extra time. Nkwama’s goal was his team’s only recorded shot on net, while the Contacts weren’t able to fire any pucks on P.A. goalie Cale Elder.

Prince Albert Mintos forward Kyrell Sopotyk (12) carries the puck into the Saskatoon Contacts’ zone for a shot on goalie Rayce Ramsay during the third period of the teams’ Jan. 11, 2018 game from P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Thursday also marked the third regular season game back for Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk; he had been injured for the first half of the season.

Through those three games, he has one goal and four assists for five total points.

Being away from playing for so long was tough, he said. “I kept pushing through, kept battling. Kept doing what I could do off the ice to help myself. But it was tough just watching the games – I really missed it.”

He said the win is good, but it would be helpful, stress-wise, to win the next few games in regulation time.

Now that he’s had a few games to skate with this year’s version of the Mintos, Sopotyk likes what he sees.

“We’ve got a good a group of guys – four really solid lines. If we work as a team, we can make a good push for the playoffs and hopefully make it to the final.”

The Mintos (24-4-2-0) next play on Saturday at home against the Moose Jaw Generals (6-20-3-2). Game time is 1:30 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. They’ll follow that with a home game – same time, same place – on Sunday against the Notre Dame Argos (4-26-8-0).