Mintos advance to league finals

Prince Albert Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk (12) celebrates a goal with his line-mates Josh Pillar (10), Austin Lamotte (19) and his defencemen during the 2018 SMAAAHL postseason. -- Daily Herald File Photo

P.A. hockey team sweeps Regina Pat C’s 3-0 to win semis

The Prince Albert Mintos will play for a provincial Midget AAA league championship.

The hockey club sealed its fate when it beat the Regina Pat Canadians 2-1 on Wednesday night in Regina to sweep the best-of-five semifinal series three games to none; the Mintos earned two of those three wins on the road, in Regina’s home arena.

“Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s excited to get going and to be in the finals and try our hardest there,” Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk said of his team’s success.

He opened the game’s scoring on Wednesday at 9:03 of the second period, with assists from line-mates Austin Lamotte and Josh Pillar.

“Going into the game with them down 2-0 (in the series), we knew they were going to push back, push hard and obviously try to come out with a win to even out the series,” Sopotyk said.

“But we knew what we had to do and just stuck to our game plan – got pucks deep and shot the puck and crashed the net for offensive chances.”

The Pat C’s tied the game 1-1 early in the third period, after Taylor Halbegewachs scored on the power play.

About six minutes later, Lamotte scored what would be the game-winning goal at 9:42, after creating a turnover in his zone.

“(Hunter) Schnell went to rim (the puck), and it went to their d; they went d-to-d (with a pass),” Lamotte explained. “I came out, blocked a shot, and went down on a breakaway. Then I went forehand backhand and put ‘er in.

“It was a special goal … I liked it,” he said.

The Mintos forward underscored how important it was for his team to win the series’ two away games in Regina.

“I’m sure many people didn’t believe we could do it. So it really felt good.

“Plus, within the last two years of playing with the Mintos, we haven’t won in their barn more than twice,” he said.

Prince Albert Mintos forward Tanner Robin (9) crashes the Regina Pat Canadians’ net during game 2 of the teams’ semifinal series. — Daily Herald File Photo

Sopotyk echoed those comments, and he referenced the first game of the series: The Mintos erased a 3-0 deficit in the game to win it 4-3.

“It kind of determined I think how the series went. For us, it just gave us confidence going through against Regina that we knew we could beat them and what we had to do to beat them.”

That come-from-behind victory was a positive momentum swing for his team, he said.

The first game was also marked by the tough, gritty play of forwards Jaxon Tait, Luke Nkwama and Schnell.

The trio helped lead the comeback push in the contest.

“They do a really good job of just doing their jobs in the defensive zone and just banging bodies,” Sopotyk said.

That style of play wasn’t lost on Lamotte either; heading into the semifinal series with the Pat Canadians, he predicted it would be one of the keys to his team’s success.

In that first game, “all of our goals were from throwing it to the net – getting rebounds and just grinding it out down low, so it really helped us,” he said.

P.A. goalie Carter Woodside finished Wednesday’s game with 24 saves on 25 Regina shots. Pat Canadians netminder Nathan Moore stopped 15 of 17 shots he faced.

In his overall assessment of the series, Lamotte commended his teammates for their work.

“Whether they were scoring or not, everyone gave a balls-out effort and did what they could. They put the team first and not themselves.”

The Mintos now await the winner of the league’s other semifinal series, the Notre Dame Hounds or the Swift Current Legionnaires. Notre Dame leads the series two game to none.

The teams played game three of the best-of-five series Thursday night in Wilcox, at Notre Dame’s Duncan McNeill arena. A final score was not available by press time.

The Mintos have not played in a Midget AAA final provincial championship series since 2013. The Saskatoon Contacts won the series in five games, with the deciding game played in P.A. in front of approximately 2,400 spectators and fans.