Mintos work out the kinks in pre-season opener

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Mintos teammates Cohen Noreikat, left, and Eric Ward battle with Cole Barry of the Tisdale Trojans for a loose puck at the Art Hauser Centre on Thursday night.

Unlike the other 11 teams in the Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League, the Prince Albert Mintos hadn’t had an exhibition game until Thursday night.

Although it took a few minutes to find their rhythm, the Mintos would find their rhythm and came out on the right end of a 7-4 contest against the Tisdale Trojans at the Art Hauser Centre.

“I think the first few minutes showed that we hadn’t played a game in a long time,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard joked. “Tisdale had a game under their belts already (a 3-2 loss to the Saskatoon Contacts on Sept. 11) so there were a little more ready than we were.

“We fell behind 2-0 but I told the kids that we just needed to relax and catch up to the tempo that Tisdale was playing at. We adjusted, played quicker and better hockey, and answered the challenge.”

Thursday’s contest was highlighted by two impressive offensive performances by Mintos forwards and linemates Zach Bansley and Jacob Cossette.

Bansley, who is returning to the team for his second season, had two goals and three assists to move into a tie for the pre-season scoring lead with Mason Bueckert (Warman Wildcats), Trae Wilkie (Saskatoon Blazers) and Tarin Smith (Blazers), though it took multiple games for that trio to reach the five-point mark.

Cossette, who suited up for the Trojans last year, potted three goals and dished out a helper before leaving the game midway through the third period after being on the receiving end of a hard hit in front of the Mintos bench.

His hat-trick performance was the second of the pre-season in the Under-18 circuit, as he joined Estevan Bears forward Carson Birnie in achieving that accomplishment.

“Zach and Jacob were both at WHL camps recently with Lethbridge and Prince Albert, which was a great experience for both guys,” Leonard said. “They got  to experience that physicality and tempo that goes with being at that level, and I think that should help them going forward.”

Travis Swanson and Matthew Cudmore also scored for the Mintos, who received a 16-save performance from Nicolas Jensen.

The Trojans got their goals from Pavel McKenzie, Carter Ralston, Parker Dunn and Madden Wallis, while Cody Wilson turned aside 27 shots.

The Mintos are now gearing up for a home-and-home series with the Warman Wildcats in their final two contests of the pre-season.

They will meet up at the Art Hauser Centre at 7 p.m. Saturday before traveling to the Legends Centre in Warman for a 3:30 p.m. affair Sunday.

“Normally I would say it’s good to have that many games in a short amount of time, but after being off for a year it would have been a little nicer if it was spaced out a bit more,” Leonard joked.

“It is what it is though and we’ve got to get these games in before the season starts next weekend. We were able to get some affiliated players into our lineup tonight and we’ll do that for these two games against Warman.

“After that, we’ll see who will be coming back from WHL training camps and will start to implement our systems a bit more before opening weekend.”

The Mintos will start their 2021-22 campaign at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25 against the Swift Current Legionnaires at the Art Hauser Centre.

They will then host the Regina Pat Canadians at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26.

Pre-Season Scores

Saturday, Sept. 4

  • Estevan 2 Regina 0 (Kaden Perron and Eric Smith – Combined 26-Save Shutout)

Thursday, Sept. 9

  • Saskatoon Blazers 6 Battlefords 0 (Cole Peardon – Two Goals and One Assist – Alex Garrett (Calgary Hitmen Prospect) and Eric Kahl – Combined 25-Save Shutout)

Friday, Sept. 10

  • Notre Dame 4 Swift Current 3 (Cole Wirun – Two Assists)

Saturday, Sept. 11

  • Estevan 5 Notre Dame 2 (Carson Birnie (Red Deer Rebels Draft Pick) – Three Goals)
  • Saskatoon Contacts 3 Tisdale 2 (Carter Mason – Two Goals)

Sunday, Sept. 12

  • Saskatoon Blazers 4 Regina 3 (Trae Wilkie Shootout Winner – One Goal and One Assist)

Tuesday, Sept. 14

  • Yorkton 5 Moose Jaw 4 (Roper Blanchard (Battlefords North Stars Draft Pick) – One Goal and Two Assists)

Wednesday, Sept. 15

  • Saskatoon Blazers 4 Battlefords 0 (Tyler Phipps – Two Goals – Eric Kahl – 23 Saves)
  • Warman 3 Saskatoon Contacts 2 (Mason Bueckert (Saskatoon Blades and La Ronge Ice Wolves Draft Pick) Overtime Winner – Two Goals)

Thursday, Sept. 16

  • Regina 5 Notre Dame 1 (Matthew Ronn (Saskatoon Blades and Estevan Bruins Draft Pick) – One Goal and Two Assists)