Blazers’ Pesenti stifles Mintos’ onslaught

Prince Albert Mintos forward Josh Pillar works the puck in the Saskatoon Balzers' zone during SMAAAHL action Oct. 14, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos fired all they had, but they couldn’t crack goalie Matthew Pesenti.

The Saskatoon Blazers’ netminder turned away 48 of the 50 Mintos’ shots he faced – a .96 save percentage – earning his team a 3-2 win and handing the Mintos their first loss of the season Saturday evening at the Art Hauser Centre.

“I think when you see the puck like our (defence) allowed me to, it makes it really easy to control rebounds and see the puck,” Pesenti said after the game. “I think on the whole it was a good game for our whole team.”

Mintos forward Josh Pillar, who managed to score his team’s second goal of the night, was dumbstruck at his opponent’s ability to suck in almost everything the Mintos threw at him.

“I don’t know,” Pillar said. “I thought we were all over him. I thought our speed was good. I thought we were hustling, but the pucks weren’t bouncing, I guess.

“Their goalie did play really good,” he said.

The Mintos were playing catch-up for large portions of the game.

Saskatoon opened the scoring at 8:41 of the first period after Christian Albertson scored a tight, forehand wrist shot on the upper blocker side of goalie Carter Woodside.

The Mintos’ goalie finished the game with ten saves on the 13 shots he faced.

His head coach, Ken Morrison, said that his team’s lack of preparedness coupled with Pesenti’s lights-out game were the difference on the night.

His assessment was blunt and to the point. “We weren’t ready to play, and then we picked it up in the second (period). (We had) too many penalties – that cost us. And then they got three goals on ten shots, and we couldn’t score,” he said.

The Mintos tied the game at 3:30 in the second period on the powerplay, thanks to a Jaxon Tait goal after a scramble for the puck in front of the crease, where Tait managed to slide it under Pesenti. Kevin Ledoux and Alex Moar assisted on the goal.

Sixteen seconds later, Carter Stebbings gave his side a 2-1 lead on a goal assisted by Noah Form and Michael Spafford.

Pillar’s goal at 6:38 of the frame would be the only other point his team could muster.

Hunter Schnell chipped the puck behind the Blazers’ net to Austin Lamotte, who then passed it to a waiting Pillar in the low slot area in front of Pesenti; Pillar quickly snapped the puck up and over his opponent’s left glove side for the score.

The Mintos continued to pelt the Saskatoon goalkeeper with shots throughout the night; 37 at the end of the second frame; 42 with nine minutes to go in the game.

Prince Albert Mintos forward Jaxon Tait waits for the puck in front of Saskatoon Balzers’ goalie Matthew Pesenti during SMAAAHL action Oct. 14, 2017. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

But Pesenti stood tall, allowing few rebounds, and making a few eye-opening recovery saves after he over-committed the opposite way.

“I thought their goalie played really good and that was the difference,” Morrison said.

Connor Gabruch’s goal at 11:12 of the third period sealed it for his side. Near Woodside’s left faceoff dot, Gabruch was left open and fired a forehand wrist shot past the netminder’s glove for the score and the win.

Both Morrison and Pillar hinted their team may have underestimated the Blazers, who earned their second win of the season Saturday.

“I think it just teaches the guys to be ready to play … you gotta play 60 minutes, and anybody in this league can beat you. We’ve been talking about it, but it’s a tough lesson,” Morrison said.

Pillar noted the positive side of the night’s loss is the lesson learned: “I think we can take away just not taking any teams for granted, even just looking at their record. We maybe thought it was gonna be an easy game, but all our games are gonna be tough this year.”

The Mintos (5-1) will next play against the Tisdale Trojans (6-1) on Oct. 24 at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m.