Mintos earn weekend wins over south Sask. clubs

Prince Albert Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk celebrates scoring a second period goal with his teammates as they played against the Moose Jaw Generals on Jan. 13, 2018 in P.A. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos earned double wins in a set of back-to-back home games over the weekend in provincial Midget AAA hockey league action.

With the two wins, the Mintos moved up in the standings of the 12-team league; they now hold down second place. They’re two points back of the first-place Notre Dame Hounds and one point up on the third-place Regina Pat Canadians.

The team is nearing the last quarter of its 44-game season. It has 12 games remaining, before playoffs start in March.

P.A. edges feisty Moose Jaw squad

On Saturday afternoon, the Mintos grabbed and held onto an early lead against the Moose Jaw Generals, who wouldn’t give up until the game’s final buzzer.

The P.A. club used measured scoring and systematic puck movement to edge a feisty Generals squad 3-2.

After 50 minutes of play, the Mintos were up 3-0 and looked poised to close out the game on goalie Carter Woodside’s shutout.

But the Generals didn’t go away.

Speedy forward Jaxon Georget netted a short-handed goal at 11:45 of the third period; and Cal Caragata cut his team’s deficit to one goal with an even-strength score less than one minute later.

After that, that Generals pulled goalie Ethan Hein to gain the extra skater with less than two minutes to go in the game. But the Mintos held on for the win, relying on controlled puck movement out of their zone and Woodside’s net-minding.

“We played pretty solid back there,” defenceman Alex Ozar said of the win. “We kept the puck moving and kept them from getting the scoring chances.”

Prince Albert Mintos forward Austin Lamotte (19) shoots on Moose Jaw Generals goalie Ethan Hein in the second period of the teams’ Jan. 13, 2018 game in P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

His powerplay goal at 7:37 of the third period wound up being the game-winning score for his team.

After carrying the puck through the Generals’ zone and passing it off to fellow defenceman Jake Koroluk, Ozar returned to Moose Jaw’s blue line to continue quarterbacking the powerplay.

Koroluk moved the puck back to Ozar. The Mintos rookie fired a laser slap shot from the point to beat Hein top shelf and give his team its third and final goal.

The regulation win was the team’s first of 2018. Its first three games this month were overtime wins.

“It’s nice to get the win in regulation,” Mintos captain Kyrell Sopotyk said. “It was a close ending, but it relieves some pressure.”

He and Josh Pillar had the team’s other two goals.

Despite being held off the scoreboard until the game’s final 10 minutes, the Generals used their physical, trash-talking style of play to stay in the game. The Moose Jaw squad made sure to finish its checks during play; after the whistle, Generals players tried to instigate tensions in scrums during play stoppage.

Prince Albert Mintos centreman Luke Nkwama (7) takes a faceoff against his Moose Jaw Generals counterpart Jaxon Georget (10) in the second period of their Jan. 13, 2018 game in P.A. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

That feistiness appeared to work for the Generals, because they almost completed the comeback. “The league has good parody,” Mintos coach Bryan Swystun said.

“Despite the records of some of the teams; it’s up to us to make sure we come prepared mentally. We did that I think. We carried the play for the majority of the minutes of the game. They got a little bit of life on that (first) goal … but our guys stuck with it and played hard until the end.”

Mintos blank Argos 5-0

On Sunday afternoon, the P.A. club had eight different skaters chip in with points for a 5-0 victory over the last-place Notre Dame Argos.

Rookies Jaxon Tait, Parker Fofonoff, Pillar and Ozar had multi-point games, while goalie Cale Elder backstopped the Mintos to a 19-save shutout win.

After the first period the Mintos were up 1-0 on the Argos. They used a three-goal second period and a Sopotyk goal in the third period to put the Athol Murray College team away.

Period to period, the Mintos held the Argos to less than 10 shots per frame, while firing 38 total shots on Notre Dame goalie Cedric Rechsteiner.

Along with Sopotyk, Tait, Fofonoff (2) and Ozar scored for Prince Albert.

The Mintos (26-4-2-0) are now off for the next five days. They next play on the road against the first-place Hounds (27-1-0-2) on Saturday evening in Wilcox. They’ll follow that with a Sunday afternoon game against the Generals in Moose Jaw (6-22-3-2).