Even they just squared off in a regular season game at the Art Hauser Centre last Sunday, the Prince Albert Mintos and Saskatoon Blazers are putting all that aside when they start their best-of-five Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League quarter-final series this weekend.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily to have played them recently,” Mintos head coach Ken Morrison said. “Obviously it will be different when the playoff start, but it does give you an opportunity to see them again and it gives you some new video to go over to prepare you for the quarter-final series.”
“That was an important game for us on Sunday as we were still in the hunt for the regular season title, but this is going to be a totally different animal when the playoffs begin,” Blazers head coach Scott Scissons added. “Everyone on each team has been playing against each other in different levels for the last 10 years, and the Mintos are going to be a handful.”
The 31-10-3-0 Blazers, who finished third in the regular season standings, will have home ice advantage for the series when it gets underway Sunday at the Rod Hamm Memorial Arena at 5:15 p.m.
The Mintos, who earned the sixth seed with a 23-19-2-0 mark, will host the second game of the series at the Art Hauser Centre on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Game three will be held in Saskatoon next Friday at 7:45 p.m., with a fourth game, if needed, taking place in Prince Albert on Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m.
The Blazers would host a fifth and deciding contest, if necessary, on Sunday, March 10 at 5 p.m.
In the regular season, the Blazers won all four meetings with the Mintos as they outscored their opponents by a 26-11 margin.
“Other than the 10-3 blowout loss they gave us in Saskatoon back in November, I thought we played pretty well for the most part against an older team,” Morrison said. “The biggest thing that we need to focus on is just limiting our errors against them, as they can take advantage of any mistakes that you make.
“They have a few guys up front who have experience in the league like the Nagy twins (Cole and Josh) and they also have some great young players like (Prince Albert Raiders prospect) Nolan Allan on defence. They are a solid team from top to bottom.”
Cole Nagy, who is also a signed prospect of the Raiders, led the Blazers in scoring with 65 points this season, while their goaltending duties was split between 15-year-old Moose Jaw Warriors prospect Brett Mirwald and 17-year-old Regina Pats prospect Matthew Pesenti.
Portland Winterhawks prospect Gabe Klassen led the way for the Mintos on offence this year with 54 points, while 18-year-old Regina Pats prospect Carter Woodside and 17-year-old Spencer Welke have each had significant time in between the pipes for the teams.
“They are a dangerous team with Klassen and (Swift Current Broncos prospect Dawson) Springer up front,” Scissons said. “They are a team that can score in bunches and you never feel safe when you have a lead on them.
“The Mintos are a quick team and a big team, especially on the back end, so they should give us a bit of a test.”
On the health front, Mintos forward and Spokane Chiefs draft pick Logan Cox is currently day-to-day with a tail bone injury he suffered at the Canada Winter Games, while the Blazers will be without Kootenay Ice defensive prospect Karter Prosofsky after he suffered a broken finger in Red Deer.
The other three quarter-final series in the SMAAAHL will also get underway this weekend.
The top-ranked Regina Pat Canadians will take on the eighth seeded Saskatoon Contacts, the second seeded Tisdale Trojans will go up against the seventh seeded Beardy’s Blackhawks and the fourth ranked Notre Dame Hounds will begin their Telus Cup title defence against the fifth seeded Swift Current Legionaries.
“I predict that you are going to see one of the bottom four teams beat the top four teams in the first round, and we certainly don’t want it to be us,” Scissons said.
“The parity in our league has been off the charts this season and if you aren’t prepared for this quarter-final round, you might be doing something different after three games.”