Mintos come away with 3-2 double overtime win over Wildcats; first round series tied 1-1

The Prince Albert Mintos celebrate after taking down the Warman Wildcats 3-2 in double overtime on Sunday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos survived an endurance battle on Sunday night at the Art Hauser Centre, beating the Warman Wildcats 3-2 in double overtime. Danton Cox had two goals in the contest, including the game winner 2:26 into double O.T., as the Mintos evened their first round playoff series at one game apiece in the best of five.

“I thought we played a whale of a game,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard said. “Warman is highly explosive, and they have some high end kids, but we did a good job of shutting them down, and we were hoping the hockey gods would give us a break and they did. The kids stuck with it, they worked hard, and that’s all you can ask.”

After a back and forth start to the contest, the Mintos scored the opening goal with 7:05 left in the first. Van Taylor intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and started an odd man rush the other way. A Wildcat defenceman fell at centre ice, creating a two on one scoring chance. Breaking down the left wing, Taylor elected to shoot the puck. The left handed shooter placed a shot far side under the glove of Warman netminder Luke Brunen, and the puck just trickled over the goal line. Over halfway through the opening frame, the Mintos took their first lead of the series.

A physical tone for the remainder of the first saw little shots and no goals, as the Mintos took their one goal lead into the second. Prince Albert started the middle frame shorthanded, after Nate Misskey was given a hooking penalty with five second left in the first. A couple of chances for Warman to tie things up on that man advantage were snuffed out, one of which came on a shot that found iron, and the Mintos were able kill the remainder of the penalty.

Despite the lack of success on the powerplay to start the game for the Wildcats, they found the game’s tying goal 6:09 into the second. Leading a rush towards the Prince Albert zone, Jeter Korte put on a one man show. A beautiful toe drag move past two Minto defenders left him all alone cutting in towards Prince Albert starter Jayden Kraus. Dragging the puck to his backhand, Korte lifted a perfect shot over Kraus’s shoulder and in. The incredible solo effort made it a 1-1 game less than midway through the middle frame.

With 1:43 left in the second, Danton Cox restored the Mintos lead with a blistering one timer from the point. Stepping into the blue line to join the scoring chance, Cox was set up by a perfect pass to the tape from Misskey. The bullet from Cox picked the top corner, far side past Brunen. The late marker gave Prince Albert a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Minto forward Karson Blanchette lays a hit on Rhett Dekowny in a battle for the loose puck. –Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

An icing call in the third period that the Mintos didn’t agree with allowed the Wildcats to score the tying goal with 8:19 left in regulation. Off the faceoff, Berg Weber found the loose puck near the half wall. Cutting his way into the slot, Weber ripped a wrister five hole past Kraus. The tally for Warman tied things up for the second time in the contest, as it became a 2-2 score.

The rest of the third period saw now goals, meaning for the second straight game, these two teams would need overtime to find a winner. An entertaining 10 minutes of the first overtime frame saw multiple scoring opportunities, but both Kraus and Brunen did their jobs in goal. The teams went into the dressing room after the first overtime still searching for a winner.

“We changed our forecheck,” Leonard said about the gameplan for the third period and overtime frames. “We wanted to get after them and try to create some turnovers. We thought their defence was getting a little tired which is why we changed things up. We locked up the neutral zone, and the kids did a god job.”

Cox sent the Art Hauser Centre into a frenzy in double overtime, scoring the game winning goal. Stepping into the slot, Cox ripped a shot that Brunen got a chunk of with the glove, but it hopped over his shoulder and into the net, giving the Mintos the 3-2 win, and more importantly, tying the series at 1-1.

“It was a great shift,” Cox said. “The puck ended up bouncing and I picked it off and the boys did a greta job of keeping the puck down low and it popped up to me. I just shot it, and it bounced up and went in; just lucky.

“There was a little pressure to keep it rolling, and for us to step up and win this game. We wanted to get this win so we could put the pressure back on (Warman) when we head back there. All of our guys feel good right now.”

“It’s a little scary at times when he’s pinching,” Leonard laughed about Cox’s game winner. “The kid’s got a lot of hockey sense though. He pounded a shot off the post a little before he scored, and he stuck with it and pounded another one in the net.”

The Mintos and Wildcats will square off at the Legends Centre in Warman for game three on Friday night.