Mintos ready for 2023-24 campaign

Herald File Photo The Prince Albert Mintos celebrate a goal during a home game last season

The Prince Albert Mintos were a young team last season, and they are hoping for a year of growth with a majority of their core set to return this season.

Head coach Tim Leonard says he is excited to see the development that players made over the offseason.

“We were a young group last year. Everybody’s a year older, a little bigger, a little stronger. We’re just hoping that they develop, and we have a good season. We went young and now we should reap the benefits of that. I’m excited to get the group in that room and then start working with them.”

Last season, the Mintos finished seventh in the Saskatchewan Male AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL) with a record of 28-18-3, good enough for 49 points.

The Mintos protected home ice well a year ago posting a 19-3-0-0 record at the Art Hauser Centre during the regular season. However, wins on the road were more elusive as Prince Albert posted a 4-15-0-3 record as the visiting team.

Leonard says he liked the way the Mintos played away from home, but they didn’t find the back of the net as often as he would like.

“(We need to) score on the road. We took it to some teams last year on the road. It’s not fair to the kids that our record showed that because we played really good on the road. It’s just some nights, you go into Notre Dame, and you outshoot them 48-17 and lose 2-1. All the efforts are there. We’re just hoping everybody’s matured. Everybody’s hopefully developed a little more and we should put more goals in on the road.”

With a lot of the same players from last season expected to return, Leonard says having a veteran team allows the coaching staff to get started early on.

“These kids come back, they’re heavier, they’re stronger, they’ve worked hard. We’re going to come in and play with a lot more confidence, which we want to see. And I just think as a group systems-wise and everything that we should be hitting the ground running instead of having to start at square one. We want to play our type of hockey. We want to play fast; we want to be aggressive. And first of all, we want to be good in our zone, which we were last year. So, we’ll just feed off those things.”

Defenceman Owen Dyck is returning to the Mintos for his third season in the SMAAAHL. The upcoming season will be his second with the Mintos after spending the 2021-2022 season with the Battlefords Stars.

Dyck says he is excited to play with a lot of teammates from last season.

“We got a lot of returning guys, so I’m excited. We already have a good connection with all the boys and the new guys. Not many rookies, but the rookies we do have either appeared or are good hockey players, so I’m just excited. I think we’re going to win a lot of games this year and go pretty far.”

Making the playoffs as the seventh seed last year, the Mintos matched up against Raider prospect Luke Moroz and the Regina Pat Canadians in the first round. The Mintos were swept in three games by the Pat Canadians, who would go onto lose in the league final against the Saskatoon Blazers.

Dyck says the playoff experience gives Prince Albert great motivation heading into the season.

“It was definitely really good. It gives the guys (a taste) what it’s like in playoffs and how much more fun it is to play in playoffs. It gives the guys definitely more drive to make them again this year and hopefully win a few more.”

The Mintos kick off the regular season on Saturday, Sept. 23 when they welcome the Regina Pat Canadians to the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drops at 1:30 p.m.