Mintos open weekend series with 6-3 win

The Prince Albert Mintos celebrate a first period goal by Abinet Klassen during their 6-3 win over the Estevan Bruins on Saturday, Jan. 27. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

A strong start—that’s been the key for the Prince Albert Mintos the last two games, and that didn’t change Saturday night.

The Mintos jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead and never trailed on route to a 6-3 win over the Estevan Bears at the Art Hauser Centre. Head coach Tim Leonard said it’s almost become a competition now among the team’s starting line-up to see who can fire everyone up the most.

“They start the game, and they want to go hard and have a good shift to get us going,” Leonard said afterwards. “The guys are just feeding off of that and it’s just carrying over so it’s on them. They’re ready to go and we want to get something done early. That’s probably three games in a row where we’ve done it.”

However, Saturday’s match wasn’t without it’s slip-ups. The Mintos gave up 2-0 and 4-1 leads before pulling away with two goals in the third period. After the strong start Leonard said the team played well in spurts, but still found a way to win.

“We had control of it there early in the game and then we kind of had a brain-fart there so to speak and let them back in it at 2-1,” he said. “We answered back and I thought we played pretty good. They’re a good hockey club. They’re big, they’re heavy, and we haven’t faced a team like that yet that is that physical. Our guys didn’t back down.”

Owen Nelson led the way for Prince Albert with two goals and an assist, including the eventual game winner midway through the second period. Nelson said doing the little things right helped the Mintos stay ahead of the visitors.

“We forechecked very hard tonight,” he said. “We were all over their D and turned a lot of pucks over behind the net, and the power play was getting back to what it was before and started rocking a little bit.”

Kelan Simmonds also had two goals for the Mintos, who have now won four out of their last five games. Abinet Klassen and Van Taylor had the other tallies for Prince Albert, while Talen Wallis, Jase McNichol, and Evhan Allan replied for Estevan.

Brady Holtvogt stopped 26 shots to earn the win for the Mintos. Kaden Perron made 22 saves for the Bears.

“We haven’t been at home for a while, so it’s nice to be home,” Leonard said. “(To) have that home-ice advantage and last change was important tonight.”

Klassen opened the scoring exactly two minutes into the first period when he walked in front of the net and sifted a backhand past Perron to make it 1-0.

Simmonds added another with a one-timer just seconds into a Minto power play roughly three-and-a-half minutes later to make it 2-0.

The Bears made it 2-1 with 2:32 to play in the first when Wallis snuck in behind the Bears defence, took a pass from Cameron Allard, and stickhandled around Holtvogt before firing the puck in an empty net.

Nelson scored twice in the first half of the second period to make it 4-1 Prince Albert. His first goal came on a one-timer from just inside the face-off dot. The second came on a deflection while being knocked to the ice by an Estevan defenceman.

“The first goal Donks (Taite Donkin) kind of found me there,” Nelson said. “He made a really nice play—nice patience—and found me in the slot and then Dicker (Owen Dyck) just put the puck to the net there and I managed to get a stick on it.”

Allan closed the gap to 4-2 with a power play goal at 5:33, and McNichol made it 4-3 less than two minutes into the third, but that was as close as the visitors got. Minto captain Van Taylor restored the two-goal lead with 14:16 left to play, and Simmonds iced the game with an empty net goal at 1:20.

The two teams are back on the ice Sunday afternoon for a re-match at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 1:30 p.m.