Prince Albert Mintos mid season review

Herald file photo

The Prince Albert Mintos sit in sixth place out of 12 teams in the SMAU18AAAHL, but have a great chance to climb up the standings in the second half of the season. With one of the toughest schedules out of any other team to start the season, the Mintos put together a 16-11-0-1 record.

With 15 of their first 28 games of the season coming against teams above them in the standings (Warman Wildcats, Notre Dame Hounds, Regina Pat Canadians, Saskatoon Blazers, Moose Jaw Warriors), their record took a bit of a hit, going just 5-10-0-0 in those contests.

With the first half of the season behind them, Prince Albert will enjoy a much easier schedule, as 10 of their next 15 games to wrap up the season will come against teams below them. In 13 games against those teams (Saskatoon Contacts, Swift Current Legionnaires, Estevan Bears, Battlefords Stars, Yorkton Maulers, Tisdale Trojans), the Mintos went a near perfect 11-1-0-1.

Prince Albert won’t play the Legionnaires, who handed the Mintos those two losses. They also won’t play the Bears, who they went 4-0 against, three of those games which went to overtime or shootout. They play three games each against the Trojans and Maulers, who sit last and second last in league standings. If the Mintos win all 10 of those games, that will help them gain 20 points, and recover some of the ground lost before the Christmas break.

The Mintos were sure happy with a pair of players in the opening stretch of the season, Jacob Cossette and Ashton Tait. Cossette has put up a point or more in 21 out of 27 games played this season, including two 5 point performances, and three 4 point performances. Not only does he lead the team in scoring with 53 points, Cossette leads the league in scoring, too. He has a 13 point lead over the league’s second place scorer, Ben Riche of the Regina Pat Canadians, who has 40.

Meanwhile for Tait, it didn’t take long for the 15 year old rookie to find his step on the U18 stage. Second in team scoring, Tait has put together 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points through his first 25 games with the Mintos. It took him just 13 games to pick up his first hat trick, in a 4-3 defeat to the Notre Dame Hounds on Nov. 20.

Tait was also selected to play for Team Sask. at the WHL Cup in Red Deer. In five games, he scored four times and added an assist, as his team finished in third place, beating Mantioba 3-2 in the bronze medal game. He scored the game winning goal on the powerplay with three minutes left in the third period, securing the win.

Depth scoring has also been something for the Mintos to be happy about. Every player on the Mintos has at least one point, except for goalie Ty Shumanski. Fellow netminder Jayden Kraus has a pair of assists.

With Cossette and Tait leading the way in terms of offence this season, the Mintos are going to start needing some production from some second and third line players as they head towards the tail end of the regular season. While 11 of their 18 skaters have put up ten points or more so far, that’s still only sixth best in the league. Four players have 20 or more points, which is less than five of the six teams above them. Only the Pat Canadians have less with just two skaters reaching the 20 point plateau.

Another thing Prince Albert will have to work on is their consistency. Head coach Tim Leonard has said all year that playing a full 60 minutes has been the biggest struggle for his team. For most of their losses in the early to middle parts of the season, either a slow start or slow finish ends up costing them a win. One of their most notable losses this season was the 4-3 loss to the Hounds. It was a game in which they led 3-2 in the third period, but gave up two goals in the final frame, including the winner with 21 seconds left.

With 15 games left before playoffs kick off, the Mintos will have the opportunity to show that they can be a consistent hockey club. Their final two games of the regular season come against Regina and Moose Jaw, which will be a good test to end the season. If playoffs were to start right now, Prince Albert would take on the Pat Canadians in the first round. A first round series with the Warriors is certainly a possibility as well, as Moose Jaw sits just one spot above them in the standings, where a 4 seed vs 5 seed series between the two teams could also happen.

If Cossette and Tait continue their tears after the break, and the rest of the team can put up some more points, this Mintos team could head into the postseason as one of the more dangerous teams.

It all kicks off again on Jan. 8, when the Mintos head to Yorkton for the second straight meeting with the Maulers. The last time these teams met on Dec. 19, Prince Albert won by a 9-2 final.