Mintos’ season comes to an end with 6-3 loss to Wildcats in game four

Jacob Cossette celebrates his first period goal in game four against the Warman Wildcats on Sunday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos held three different leads in their game four meeting with the Warman Wildcats, but couldn’t hold on to them, as they lost 6-3 on Sunday night at the Art Hauser Centre. The loss brought an end to their 2021-22 campaign, losing three games to one in their opening round series of the playoffs.

“It’s tough,” said an emotional Tim Leonard after the game. “We’ve been a big family for the past five or six months, so we’re a pretty tight group. They’re like kids to all of the coaching staff, so you get attached. I’m more than happy and proud of this group, and as far as things go, we had a really good year.”

After Zach Bansley drew a tripping call on a partial breakaway, it took just six seconds for the Mintos to strike first on the powerplay. After a faceoff win in the offensive zone, Prince Albert only needed six seconds of the man advantage to score the game’s opening goal. From the right circle, Ashton Tait slipped a pass to the point for Nate Misskey, who blasted a one timer low on the glove side of goaltender Alex Worthington. In a must win game, the Mintos started things on the right foot, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the contest just 2:53 into the first period

Wildcats captain Brody Mortenson tied things up with 12:47 to go in the first period. Cutting through the slot, the defenceman spun and fired a shot that beat Jayden Kraus low. After spending time in the Prince Albert end, Warman was able to tie things up at 1-1.

Just 1:23 later, the Mintos regained the lead. A point shot from captain Rhett Ravndahl was beautifully redirected in front by Jacob Cossette, and found a hole through Worthington. The league’s regular season leading scorer found his first goal and first point of the playoffs, and it was a big one as it gave the Mintos a 2-1 lead midway through the opening frame.

With 32 seconds to go in the first, the Wildcats tied things up again with a powerplay goal of their own, once again from the stick of Mortenson. From the point he was able to find a lane through the traffic and found the back of the net past Kraus. Just eight seconds into the man advantage, the Wildcats tied the game 2-2, and that’s how it would stay heading into the first intermission.

Jayden Kraus made 30 saves in goal for the Mintos against the Warman Wildcats on Sunday night. –Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

After a back and forth start to the second period, Logan Beebe broke the tie exactly five minutes in, putting the Mintos back on top by one. A point shot beat all the traffic in front, including a screened Worthington. Beebe’s first goal of the postseason gave Prince Albert their third lead of the night as they went up by a 3-2 score.

After offsetting minor penalties to Ravndahl and Rhett Dekowny, the Wildcats were able to tie the game once again after a faceoff in the Minto zone. Connor Gabriel grabbed the loose puck near the right circle and cut his way into the slot. Beating his defender, Gabriel was able to bring the puck to his forehand, and ripped a shot over the pad of Kraus, who was sprawling in an attempt to make a desperation save. After the Mintos took their third lead of the game, Warman responded with their third game tying goal with 5:13 to go in the second, making it a 3-3 score.

Early in the third period, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game with a powerplay marker. Rylan Pearce took advantage of the extra ice, working his way into the slot. With room to create a chance, Pearce sniped a shot home, giving Warman their first lead of the contest. 3:09 into the final regulation period, it became a 4-3 lead for the Wildcats.

Jaydon Jessiman put Warman up by a pair with 7:55 to go in the third with a weird goal in front. After an original shot popped up in the air, Jessiman knocked the puck out of midair with his stick. The baseball swing found its way in the net somehow, giving the Wildcats a 5-3 lead. A quick chat between the two officials to see if it was knocked in by a high stick confirmed the goal counted, and the visitors took a commanding two goal lead, looking to close the series out.

“Give Warman credit, they have a hell of a hockey team over there,” Leonard said. “We tried to defend the best we could, but we just made a couple of mistakes. They have some talented goal scorers, and they made us pay.”

Down two goals, the Mintos pulled the goalie, desperate to find any offense in the final two minutes. However a turnover near centre ice gave the Wildcats the chance to put the game away for good, and they did just that. Mason Bueckert worked his way down the left wing, burying an extra insurance marker for Warman, as they went up 6-3.

The Wildcats were able to hold the Mintos at bay for the remainder of the third period, as they closed out the game and the series, winning by a 6-3 final. Worthington turned aside 28 of 31 shots in the contest, as Warman took the best of five series three games to one. Kraus stopped 30 of 35 shots in the loss for Prince Albert.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Leonard added. “We played well right to the final buzzer. I told them not to hang their heads, and to be proud of what they accomplished this year. For the guys that are moving on, I said I’m just a phone call away. For the guys coming back, we’re going to get started right away. They’re all leaving this dressing room as a better person on the ice and off the ice. That’s our goal as coaches, and I thought that was well done.”