Mintos prepare for home-heavy February in midst of playoff race

Herald File Photo. The Prince Albert Mintos celebrate a goal during a home game at the Art Hauser Centre .

After having only four home games over the past two months, the Prince Albert Mintos are ready to return home in the midst of a playoff push.

The Mintos will play nine of their eleven remaining regular season games at the Art Hauser Centre in the month of February. Minto head coach Tim Leonard says he is hoping for success on home ice this month.

“I hope it’s huge. We’ve got a good record at home. We seem to play well here. But, there’s still games that got to be played and we’ve got to come out and play the right way and play for 60 minutes.”

So far this season, the Mintos have posted a record of 11-2-0-0 at the Art Hauser Centre in 13 games.

The Mintos currently sit eighth in the SMAAAHL standings with a record of 14-16-0-3, good for 31 points putting them two points ahead of the Yorkton Maulers.

The Mintos will only play on the road twice throughout the remainder of the regular season, once in the Battlefords on Feb. 8 and a rescheduled make up game in Warman on Feb. 24 after some weather cancelled the original game on Nov. 5

Leonard says he is hopeful the team will make some ground in the standings after a road heavy December and January.

“I like our schedule moving ahead. We’re in a dogfight for a playoff spot. We looked at the schedule. We knew it was going to be tough during those months, but we kind of held our own. And now with coming home, nine games at home, we need to take advantage of that.”

Few bounces have gone the Mintos way recently. The club could only muster two goals in their final three games of January, all coming in the same game against the Saskatoon Blazers on Jan. 25.

Leonard says he is hopeful that luck changes at home.

“I’ve been around this game a long time and I’ve never seen a team struggle with scoring as much as we have. And it’s not like we’re not getting the chances. We shoot it wide, or we hit a post or hit a crossbar, but I keep telling them to stick with it. So, I hope sooner or later that balloon bursts and bursts in a big way and at home would be the perfect spot.”

Leonard adds that the team is still in a good mood despite the lack of scoring.

“And I give them credit for sticking with it because we’ll laugh at practice because we’ll be shooting and we’ll miss an open net. Or Kraus or Holtvogt will make a crazy save and rob one of our guys. They’re going to laugh about it: it’s even in practice. So, we’re excited about being home and we’re going to make the best of it.”

There is a positive morale in the Minto dressing room now that the team will play the majority of their games at home the remainder of the season.

Minto goaltender Jayden Kraus says he is looking forward to helping the team have a strong push at the end of the regular season.

“Throughout the whole season, we’ve been really good at home. I think that’s a big positive going into our playoff push and really good for our team. I think we’re going to have really good push at the end of the year here and we’re going to be really strong and finish the year on a really good note.”

Kraus, a prospect of the WHL’s Victoria Royals, relishes the opportunity to play in games where the stakes are high.

“I think not just in this league, but in every league, there is high pressure games and those are the important ones and the ones for me at least, that I want to play in. I feel I thrive in those situations and just make me and the team better. I’m looking forward to these high pressure games and a really good opportunity for us to learn and get better as a team.”

The Mintos return to action on Wednesday night when they welcome the Saskatoon Contacts to the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 7 p.m.