Mintos outlast Blackhawks to win annual Food Bank Game

Prince Albert Mintos forward Gabe Klassen (#12) tries to break away from Beardy’s Blackhawks defenceman Ethan Neufeld (#11) and forward Ryland McNinch (#20) during SMAAAHL action at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

The Prince Albert Mintos are heading into the holidays on a winning note, but it wasn’t easy.

The Mintos withstood a late charge from the Beardy’s Blackhawks to win the club’s annual Food Bank Game 5-4 at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday.

The win was the third in a row for the Mintos, who leapfrogged the Blackhawks for fourth place in the SMAAAHL standings.

“Overall it was a good effort,” Minto coach Ken Morrison said afterwards. “I’m happy. It’s three in a row. These guys have worked hard for a long time. We’ve been short players for a long time. These guys dug down tonight and got the win, so it’s good.”

After a scoreless first, Blackhawks left winger Holden Knights opened the scoring five minutes into what would be a back and fourth second period. Andrew Schaab tied the game on the power play for the Mintos roughly two minutes later, but the Blackhawks responded with a power play goal of their own from Ryland McNinch with 9:20 left in the frame.

Prince Albert’s Ashton Ferster tied things up again with his 12th goal of the season at 5:34. The two teams then traded goals in the last two minutes. Nolan Doell scored for the Blackhawks with 1:56 to play but Gavin Ingram tied it up again with just 58 seconds to go.

“They’re a good team and they competed hard,” Morrison said. “I didn’t think we were real sharp in the first two (periods). I thought our third was our best period. We needed it to be, and it was.”

Ferster put the Mintos up for good less than a minute into the third period, and Gabe Klassen added another roughly seven minutes later.

Tyler Danielson got one back for the visitors with just 1:24 to go in the period, but that was as close as they got. A furious final minute in front of Minto goalie Spencer Welke passed without any goals.

Welke made 28 saves to earn his seventh win of the season for Prince Albert. Blackhawks goalies Matthew Hennessey and Tyler Peterson combined for 21 saves in a losing cause.

“We’re still working towards that 60 minute effort,” Morrison said. “It kind of seems to evade us a bit. We’re sometimes good for 40 and so-so for 20. We’ve just got to keep working towards playing a full 60 by the time playoffs role around.”

The Mintos are off until Jan. 5 when they take on the Moose Jaw Generals at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 1:30 p.m.

The Blackhawks are off until Jan. 6 when they also take on the Generals. Puck drop is 1:30 p.m. at the Willow Cree Memorial Sport Centre.