Mintos preparing for first round playoff date with Swift Current

Herald File Photo. The Prince Albert Mintos are getting set for a first round playoff matchup with the Swift Current Legionnaires.

On paper, the Prince Albert Mintos and Swift Current Legionnaires are about as evenly matched as you can possibly get.

The two teams will square off in the first round of the Saskatchewan Male AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL) playoffs beginning on Saturday night at the InnovationPlex in Swift Current.

Minto head coach Tim Leonard says the Legionnaires boast some talent within their lineup that Prince Albert will need to game plan around.

“They’re a good hockey club. They’re well coached. They got some top end kids, and they got a really good goalie, so that’s something we’re going to have to deal with. We were split kind of right down the middle with them this year in the four games. It’s going to be a good series. It’s going to come down to who can score the goals at the right times and who is going to stay healthy.”

Both teams finished with 55 points during the regular season. Swift Current (26-15-3) earned the fourth seed and home ice advantage thanks to picking up one more win than the fifth seeded Mintos (25-14-5).

During the four game regular season series, each team took home a pair of victories, a loss in regulation and an extra time loss.

Leonard says he expects the tight, competitive nature of the season series to carry into the playoffs.

“I think we know what they’re all about. There’s going to be no surprises. Their top guys are their top guys. With their goaltending, we’ve got to get some traffic in front of them and we’ve got to make it hard on them. It’s going to be a good series. As all of them are, even first place, playing eighth place, the (Saskatoon) Blazers are going to have their hands full with Estevan.”.

Minto captain Van Taylor expects the margin of error to be razor thin. He says the Mintos need to be ready for anything.

“It’s going be really close. The games are going to be 2-1, 1-0. There are going to be games like that, and we just need everybody to buy into what we’re saying and use all four lines and just give it (our) all every night.”

The special teams battle will be crucial for both sides in a series that is expected to be extremely close.

Prince Albert boasted the SMAAAHL’s sixth ranked power play, converting on 18.04% of chances during the regular season despite receiving the second fewest opportunities. Swift Current had the most power play opportunities in the league but only converted at a 14.23% clip, which was second worst in the SMAAAHL.

On the kill, the Mintos ranked third, killing 85.31% of their opponent’s penalties while also being the least penalized team in the league. The Legionnaires ranked sixth with their penalty kill operating at a 83.96% clip.

“Our power play (has) got to get going.” Leonard says about the special teams battle. ”There’s no doubt about that. Our (penalty) kill has been good, it’s just our power play. We’re just having a hard time with it, we’re getting chances, but pucks just aren’t going in. I just hope sooner or later that pucks start going in for us because the kids are working hard for it and I hope they can get paid off.”

It is the third consecutive playoff appearance for the Mintos and the team is hoping for a deep run. The Mintos have fallen in the first round the last two seasons losing in four games to Warman in the 2021-2022 campaign and a three game sweep at the hands of the Regina Pat Canadians last year.

“I think it’s always good when you’ve got experience.” Leonard says. “The guys have been through it once. It was kind of a bittersweet one. They had a good team there in Regina last year, but the referee kind of stuck his nose in it and didn’t help us in any way. You learn from it, you move on. They want to go on a roll here. We work hard and do all the little things that we’re supposed to. I think we’ll have success.”

Season Series at a Glance

Oct. 14: Swift Current 2 @ Mintos 1 (SO)
Oct. 15: Swift Current 3 @ Mintos 6
Nov. 11: Mintos 1 @ Swift Current 5
Nov. 12: Mintos 4 @ Swift Current 3 (OT)

The best-of-five series begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at the InnovationPlex in Swift Current. The series shifts back to Prince Albert on Sunday night with puck drop at 7 p.m.