First contact

Jacob Leicht of the Prince Albert Mintos and Austin Wieler of the Saskatoon Contacts battle for the puck at the Art Hauser Centre on Jan. 19. The teams begin their quarterfinal playoff series in Saskatoon on Thursday night. (File photo)

P.A. Mintos face Saskatoon Contacts in first-round playoff matchup starting Thursday

The Saskatchewan Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League playoffs are upon us and the fifth-place Prince Albert Mintos are set to take on the No. 4-ranked Saskatoon Contacts.

“It should be a heck of a series,” Mintos manager Don Fauchoux said.

“It’s nice that we’re close proximity and fans can travel both ways. It’ll be good for the crowd, good for the kids to see nice crowds and it should be very competitive.”

The teams faced each other four times during the regular season, with the Mintos coming out ahead on three occasions. P.A. shut out the Contacts 4-0 on Nov. 3, fell to Saskatoon 6-2 on Dec. 1, won 4-3 in the shootout on Jan. 19 and most recently pummelled the opposition 11-2 on Feb. 9.

Despite those favourable outcomes, Fauchoux said regular season success is irrelevant when it comes to the playoffs.

“Last game we went there the score was a big score for us. We’re not taking that into consideration because the score can easily be the other way the next time we play, that’s midget hockey. It was a day that pucks went in the net,” he said.

“But it’s a whole new season, a whole new level of play will (rise) and it’ll be a battle. It will be a darn good battle.”

The Mintos finished the year one point behind Saskatoon in the standings, and although they had one more win than the Contacts, the Contacts had fewer regulations losses. The final rankings give Saskatoon home-ice advantage in Game 1, which will be played at the Schroh Arena on Thursday.

“Definitely that first game is a big game,” Fauchoux said.

“It’s going to be tough to win in their barn, but our record pretty well is almost the same on the road or at home so it doesn’t much matter where we play. We’d rather be at home, of course, in front of our hometown crowd, but we’ll be there for Game 2 and onwards.”

The Mintos are a rookie-heavy team and many of them had successful debut seasons. Logan Barlage, Kyrell Sopotyk and Cael Zimmerman finished top three in rookie scoring with 76, 59 and 42 points respectively. Sopotyk and Barlage ended the season first and second for goals scored among all players, with 42 and 37.

In net, P.A. goalie Cale Elder earned a 17-5-0 record and finished with the second-best goals against average, 1.85. He was also tied for second in wins and save percentage with a 0.927.

Fauchoux said the rookies shouldn’t have difficulty adjusting to the post-season game.

“They’re aware that the game is going to be a lot more intense, there’ll be harder checking, but we played that way towards the end,” he said.

“We kept our pace up and played hard right through the end and hopefully the kids keep that going.”

The other three playoff matchups feature the No. 1 Regina Pat Canadians versus the No. 8 Saskatoon Blazers, the No. 2 Notre Dame Hounds versus he No. 7 Yorkton RawTec Maulers and the No. 3 Moose Jaw Generals versus the No. 6 Tisdale Trojans.


Tale of the Tape

On Feb. 23 the Prince Albert Mintos travel to the Schroh Arena to take on the Saskatoon Contacts in Game 1 of the SMAAAHL quarterfinals. The Mintos won the teams’ four-game season series 3-1.

Record: Prince Albert — 28-15-0-1; Saskatoon — 27-13-0-4

Last 10: Prince Albert — 10-0-0-0; Saskatoon — 5-4-0-1

Top scorers: Prince Albert — Logan Saskatoon (76 points); Saskatoon — Quinton Ong (58 points)

Goals for/against: Prince Albert — 174/114; Saskatoon — 179/135

Last meeting: Kyrell Sopotyk scored a hat-trick and added four assists as the Mintos defeated the Contacts 11-2 at the Schroh Arena on Feb. 9, 2017.

Playoff schedule:

(All home games at Art Hauser Centre)

Game 1 @ Saskatoon: Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.

Game 2 vs. Saskatoon: Sunday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

Game 3 @ Saskatoon: Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m.

*Game 4 vs. Saskatoon: Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

*Game 5 @ Saskatoon: Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.

*If necessary