The Prince Albert Mintos breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday, as the Saskatoon Contacts fell 4-3 to the Saskatoon Blazers in regulation time. The Contacts loss meant the Mintos secured the sixth seed ahead of the playoffs.
While Prince Albert ended up in a tie with Moose Jaw in the standings, the Warriors finished with more regulation wins, giving them the fifth seed, and the Mintos the sixth.
Now the Mintos will possibly have to wait until Saturday to find out who they will take on in the first round of the playoffs. Both the Blazers and Warman Wildcats have one more game in their regular season schedule, with both teams taking on the Regina Pat Canadians. The way those games turn out will determine who the Mintos will face off against.
The Mintos wrapped up their regular season on Feb. 21 with a 4-1 loss to the Contacts at home. After a well deserved week off, the team had their first practice back on Monday. Head coach Tim Leonard says they’re getting back into the swing of things.
“We’re slowly ramping back into it,” Leonard said. “I’ll get busy preparing for either team, and we’ll start implementing some things before the playoffs start. Once we find out who we’re going to face, we’ll get focused on them and break them down, and try to get a gameplan together.”
The Blazers currently sit two points ahead of the Wildcats, but there is one scenario that could put the Wildcats in front of Saskatoon. If Saskatoon loses and Warman wins, the Wildcats would pull even with the Contacts. However, after all of the possible tiebreakers have been sorted, the Wildcats would hold the edge, as they finished the year with more overall regulation wins. That would mean a Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon first round.
However, if the Blazers win or even get a single point against Regina, that would secure Saskatoon a second place finish, meaning Prince Albert would take on Warman in the first round.
“When you’re in our position, you’ve got to beat the top teams,” Leonard said. “They’re all good, it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve had some success against both teams, and like I said, we’ll come up with a gameplan, and we’ll be ready to go.”
With eight rookies on the team, and the past two seasons disrupted due to the pandemic, this Minto team will be brand new to playoffs at the AAA level. While playoff experience will be lacking for every team in the playoffs, Leonard sees it as an opportunity for the young players to shine.
“I don’t think it’ll be hard to get them ready. I think it’ll be hard to control them for the first five or ten minutes of that first game,” he said. “It’s going to be new to all of them, and it’s going to be highly explosive, especially starting in the other team’s rink. We’ll take it slow and settle the guys down, and once they get a hit or two under their belt, it’ll feel like a regular game and we’ll go out and do what we need to do.”
As far as their starting goalie goes, the team doesn’t have a number one chosen yet. While rotating both Jayden Kraus and Ty Shumanski has gone relatively smoothly this season, Leonard says they are going to wait before determining who they want backstopping the team.
“We’ll just see how our practices carry out. We want to go through some more video of both teams and see who was good against them and who wasn’t. We flip flopped (Kraus and Shumanski) all year and haven’t had a problem. They’ve both answered the bell every time they’ve been in net, so I think our goaltending is the least of our worries. Whoever goes in for us, we’ll have confidence in them.”
As the playoffs are now just over a week away, Leonard explained what he’s like from the team, as well as the things they need to work on in order to be sharp come their first game.
“I think our work ethic has to be there,” he said. “We were pretty good all year with that. Our discipline needs to be cleaned up. That’s not always the kids’ fault. Sometime you have to do what the refs are allowing that day and play accordingly. So if we can get those two things under control, I think we can play with anybody.”