Mintos have playoff spot locked, eyes set on home ice advantage

Herald file photo. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

With just four games left in the regular season, the Prince Albert Mintos are locked into playoff mode. They officially clinched a playoff spot with their 5-0 shutout win over the Yorkton Maulers on Sunday, moving them 12 points ahead of the ninth place Battlefords Stars.

Three of Prince Albert’s next four games will come against teams sitting two or less points above them in the standings. They take on the Regina Pat Canadians, Moose Jaw Warriors, and Saskatoon Contacts to wrap up the season.

“We’re in the playoffs but we want to finish as high as possible,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard said. “Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Regina are in our grasp, so we’d like to win as many games as we can here and move up as much as we can.”

With the possibility of moving into fourth place by the end of the year, Leonard says home ice advantage has definitely been on the team’s mind heading into their final stretch of games.

“That’s what we’re looking at, and we’re going to take it game by game,” he said. “We’ve got some tough games, and those teams play well in their own rink, so it’s no small feat. It’ll be a challenge for us, and hopefully it’ll prepare us for the playoffs.”

The last time the Mintos hit the road for a minimum three game road trip was back in the middle of November, when they played five straight away from the Art Hauser Centre. The opportunity to play on the road and pick up some big wins is one that Leonard says will, again, help the team once playoffs get rolling.

“It’s always good when you get away and get a little more comfortable with each other, and get to spend some quality time together,” Leonard said. “I think it would be key to go into these teams barns and send a message. These are big points, and I think if we can set some standards and get into their heads a bit, they won’t want to play us in the playoffs. If we can sneak out with wins in their barns, it would give us even more confidence.”

Since coming back from the holiday break in January, the Mintos have strung together a 7-4-1-0 record. Leonard has been proud of the way the team has played over the last month and a half. He described what he’s liked the most from his group.

“They’ve just bought in,” he said. “They’re doing exactly what we ask for, and their work ethic has been second to none.”

Prince Albert kicks off their three game road trip on Wednesday night in the Battlefords against the Stars. They head to Regina on Friday and Moose Jaw on Saturday before returning home on Monday for their regular season finale against the Saskatoon Contacts.