Shorthanded Mintos suffer 4-1 loss to Contacts in final regular season game

Ashton Tait and Berkly Catton both scored goals for the Mintos and Contacts on Monday night at the Art Hauser Centre. --Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

Any time Ashton Tait and Berkly Catton play hockey in the same rink, you can almost guarantee they will give you your money’s worth. Monday night’s affair between the Prince Albert Mintos and Saskatoon Contacts was no different as both young guns found the scoresheet. However, it was Catton that got the upper hand, as well as his team, as the Contacts handed the Mintos a 4-1 loss in their final game of the regular season.

“We just wanted to play a full 60 minutes and I thought we did,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard said. “They’re a very skilled hockey team. Our penalty kill broke down twice and they made us pay. Good on them, we just didn’t execute.”

The Mintos were playing with a shortened bench on Monday, as a couple of AP players were called up to play. Add that with Jacob Cossette getting tossed early in the third period, and you get a score that reflects on the shorthanded bench.

The Contacts opened the scoring just 59 seconds into the contest, as Noah Chadwick beat Minto starter Ty Shumanski. Taking a pass near the right circle, Chadwick was able to bury his 17th goal of the season to put Saskatoon up early.

Tait knotted things at 1-1 just over a minute into the second period. Jacob Cossette fired a shot from the left circle that Tait perfectly redirected in front past Chase Wutzke for his team leading 28th goal of the season.

Zach Moore restored the lead for the Contacts with 13:40 left in the second on a man advantage. Taking a nice pass on the tape from Catton, Moore was able to roof a shot past Shumanski. Although they managed to throw just four shots on goal in nearly a period and a half, Saskatoon went up by a 2-1 score.

Catton added to his already impressive scoresheet, scoring a goal on a weird play with 4:53 to go in the second. On a faceoff play against Tait, Catton chopped at the puck when it was dropped, and somehow it found its way over Shumanski and in. The weird goal put the Contacts up 3-1 late in the middle frame. The first overall pick in the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft registered a point the first three goals scored by Saskatoon, collecting a pair of assists on the first two.

“You don’t see that very often,” Leonard said about Catton’s goal. “Boy that kid is good. He’s the real deal, and you have to be ready. He’s always two or three plays ahead of everybody, and you just have to try and defend the best you can.”

Carter Mason added another goal for the Contacts with 2:10 left in the second, taking advantage of a turnover in the Prince Albert end. Stealing a loose puck near the slot, Mason walked in and fired a shot that Shumanski had virtually no chance of stopping. The laser gave Saskatoon a commanding 4-1 lead after two periods. After being held to four shots after they went up 2-1, the visitors poured on 14 more in the final 13 minutes of the period to lead 18-17 in that department as well.

A scoreless third period was just fine for the Contacts, who snapped a four game losing streak with a 4-1 win.

The Mintos’ playoff fate lies in the hands of the Contacts now. With one game still to go, Saskatoon can leapfrog Prince Albert in the standings with a win. Prince Albert will most likely play either the Regina Pat Canadians or Saskatoon Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, and will kick off their opening round series on the road.

“We’re just going to worry about ourselves,” Leonard said when asked about how the playoff brackets could sort out. “We can go anywhere from fifth to seventh with how it looks right now. We’ll let it play out and focus on ourselves. We’re going to focus on ourselves. We’re going to take some days off here and get these kids some well deserved rest, and they’ll come back hungry.”