Mintos open home stand with loss to Contacts

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Saskatoon Contacts forward Josh Paulhus takes a shot at Prince Albert Mintos goaltender Spencer Welke while Alex Ozar tries to block the attempt Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.

The 2018-19 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League season has been filled with ups and downs so far for the Prince Albert Mintos.

After snapping a six-game losing streak with an impressive 6-0 road win over the Moose Jaw Generals Sunday, the Mintos were back at the Art Hauser Centre in an attempt to keep their winning ways going Tuesday night.

Instead, the opening contest in a six-game home stand ended up not going their way as they fell 5-2 to the Saskatoon Contacts.

“Our work ethic has been there, but we just haven’t been able to execute here lately,” Mintos head coach Ken Morrison said.

“It’s just the little things that we need to be consistently better at, such as making passes and limiting our turnovers at the oppositions blueline. Those are all aspects of the game that we are going to be working on getting better at, along with hopefully getting a few guys back from injury here soon so that we can have a full lineup.”

Portland Winterhawks prospect Gabe Klassen scored a highlight-reel goal to give the Mintos the lead in the first period, but they would soon have to deal with a Contacts side that was determined to tie up the proceedings.

After a number of chances, Riley Girod equalized the contest with 6:14 left on the clock in the middle frame and Caleb Cherry put the visitors in front on a shot from a bad angle that beat Spencer Welke just three minutes later.

“I thought our first period was really good, but our second wasn’t what we wanted to see as the level of play dropped down quite a bit,” Morrison said

“We were still working hard though and we were only down a goal to start the third, but then one of their guys (Jaeden Mercier) was able to come down and take a shot that went off one of our defenceman and in the net. That was a bad break for us.”

The Mintos clawed to within a goal on the power play midway through the third period as Dawson Springer potted home his 19th marker of the season, which is one ahead of Cole Sillinger of the Regina Pat Canadians and Holden Knights of the Beardy’s Blackhawks for the league lead.

That would be as close as the Mintos would get though, as Davin Griffin scored on a breakaway with less than five minutes to go.

The fifth round pick by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft would then put the puck in an empty net a few minutes later to seal the victory.

“The guys stuck with it and kept working to try and battle back, but we just couldn’t seem to find those goals tonight,” Morrison said.

Griffin had a three-point night to lead the way for the Contacts, who are fifth in the league standings with a 14-10 record and are gearing up to face the Tisdale Trojans Sunday.

“We had a really good showing this weekend down in Swift Current and tonight was just a continuation from those games against the Legionnaires,” Contacts head coach Marc Chartier said.

“We have a number of young guys on our team this year and it usually takes them a couple of months to get used to the speed of the midget game and how much time you have to make plays. We’re starting to see those players progress and we’re seeing some great results.”

Chase Hamm made 30 saves for the Contacts, while Welke turned aside 33 shots for the Mintos.

Prior to Tuesday’s contest, the Mintos found out that Klassen, Marek Schneider, Ashton Ferster and Logan Cox will be representing the program on Saskatchewan men’s hockey team at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

“It’s obviously pretty exciting for those guys, especially as they are all from here,” Morrison said.

“It was a little disappointing though that (defenceman) Chase (Friedt-Mohr) didn’t get a chance there as I thought he deserved a shot. However, I’m sure that will be some extra motivation for him going forward.”

Next up for the 12-13-1-0 Mintos, who are tied with the Blackhawks for seventh place in the standings and are five points ahead of the Battlefords Stars in the race for a playoff berth, is a 7 p.m. meeting with the Yorkton Maulers at the Art Hauser Centre Friday.