Mintos return to the ice at fall camp

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Cohen Noreikat controls the puck while being pressured by Evan Malenfant during the Prince Albert Mintos’ green and gold game on Sunday afternoon at the Art Hauser Centre.

For the first time since a 6-3 home win over the Saskatoon Blazers on Nov. 15, 2020, the Prince Albert Mintos were back on the ice at the Art Hauser Centre this past weekend.

The Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League club officially kicked off their 2021-22 campaign with their annual fall camp, which wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with the green and gold intrasquad contest.

“Everybody was pretty pumped up to be back out there,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard said. “From our first practice session on Saturday morning right through the scrimmage on Sunday, you could tell that the effort was there from everyone.

“It was a great weekend all around. It was fun to watch the kids playing again and it was great to have a chance to meet the parents and enjoy the game of hockey once again.”

The two-day camp also marked the first major on-ice activity for the Mintos since Leonard was announced as the head coach for the team in March as the replacement for Danton Danielson.

He had previously served as the bench boss for 10 seasons before being hired by the Prince Albert Raiders as an assistant coach in 2012 and returned to the Mintos prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign and was with the team until January 2016.

“The league’s changed drastically in terms of how fall camps go compared to when I first started coaching,” Leonard said. “When you come to fall camp now, most teams only have a few spots to give out, which is different from before where there were no guarantees and you would have 120 players show up for the camp.

“That’s the way it is now though.  People want to know where they are going to be playing going into a new season and you have to follow suit and sign players up in order to stay competitive.”

While the majority of the Mintos roster was announced during the off-season, there are still spots open on this year’s squad, especially with Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League training camps taking place over the next few weeks.

“We probably have at least four guys that have a legitimate shot at playing in the Western Hockey League and we won’t know their status until the teams make their final roster decisions,” Leonard said. “It’s awesome if they make it to the WHL as it’s our job to help develop our players to reach that next level, but if they come back, that’s just a bonus and makes the program that much better.

“While there are still those question marks that won’t be answered right away, we feel like we have the kids that can fill those spots if we need to fill them.”

The Mintos are now preparing for a four-game pre-season slate, which will get underway on Saturday, Sept. 11 when they’ll visit the Tisdale Trojans.

The Trojans will then visit Prince Albert on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m., while the Warman Wildcats will travel to the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday, Sept. 18 for a 7 p.m. contest before hosting the Mintos the following afternoon.

“We’ll probably give some of our younger kids a taste of the league and what it’s like during those first couple of exhibition games before we try to get down as close we can to our full team and get more of our systems in place in those final two games,” Leonard said.

The Mintos will open up their regular season slate on Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Art Hauser Centre with a 1:30 p.m. tilt against the Swift Current Legionnaires.

The Under-18 circuit’s pre-season schedule will start on Wednesday as the Wildcats will take on the Battlefords Stars at the Access Communication Centre in North Battleford.