Year in review

Prince Albert celebrates a goal in the first half of the 2016-17 season ---- Dustin Saracini/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Mintos are in the middle of playoff contention as they battle in the prestigious Macs tournament

It wasn’t always pretty in the first half of the SMAAAHL season, but the young Prince Albert Mintos have made a name for themselves this year. Currently holding a 13-12-0-1 record, the green and yellow sit in fifth place, 18 points back of the first place Moose Jaw Generals and Regina Pats.

Despite one of the youngest teams the Mintos have ever put together, head coach Ken Morrison is impressed with the way his club has handled themselves.

“We’ve been real good at times and other times we haven’t been at our best, we are working at the consistency,” he said.

“All things considered, I’m pretty satisfied. Our group is young for the most part and it’s a big jump to come into this league for a lot of them, and they’re improving a lot. We’ve been battling injuries all year and maybe things will turn around here and we will get some guys healthy and get back to being a full group.”

One of skaters the Mintos have been leaning on 26 games into the 2016-17 campaign has been the work of 15-year-old phenom Logan Barlage. The 6’3” forward is not only a dominant force on the team, but is someone opposing coaches have had to dial in on in order to take walk away with two points. It’s plain and simple, big number seven has made the transition look easy coming from the Humboldt Broncos, and has earned his WHL debut with the Swift Current Broncos. As it stands now, Barlage holds the most points in the league with 42 in 26 games. In terms of scoring, he and Kyrell Sopotyk have been carrying the load for the Mintos, the former notching 19 markers while the latter has netted 16. According to Morrison, there have been plenty of pleasant surprises this year.

“I think [Ty] Mossiman has been pretty consistent through the year,” he said.

“[Cael] Zimmerman and [Austin] Lamotte are coming along, they are working their butts off. I told them the other day they are really close to breaking through. Some of our older guys are starting to come along, Kyle Schneider and [Connor] Pyne are starting to work hard. On defence, Alex Moar has been one of our most consistent players. At 15-years-old, playing defence, the guy is a smart player, Braden Schneider has been good … overall I’m pretty happy with the effort from most of the guys.”

Behind them and in between the pipes, fellow rookie Cale Elder has shown glimpses of being one of the top goaltenders in the SMAAAHL. Sporting a 2.16 goals against average, coupled with a .919 save percentage and a 7-5 record, he and Tye Morin have more than exceeded expectations in their rookie campaign.

“I think he’s been a bit of a surprise, he’s come in and done a real good job,” Morrison said of Elder.

“They are both working hard. Tye’s working on his consistency level and getting ready for games himself, I think they are both doing a pretty good job.”

Over the break, Prince Albert will be taking part in the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary. Regina, Moose Jaw, the Notre Dame Hounds and Saskatoon Contacts will be joining them as the green and yellow clash with the top midget teams from around North America and select European squads. Prince Albert is placed in pool four, which consists of the New Jersey Hitmen, Calgary Flames, Leduc Motors Oil Kings and the Hungarian U18 National Team.

“I think it’s great for the kids, it gives them some exposure,” Morrison said.

“A lot of people from all over Western Canada that are connected go and watch … it opens up some doors possibly for some of them and for us as a group it gives us a chance to practice next week, get in a few more games.”

Once they return, Morrison and the Mintos have high expectations for themselves with a healthy club.

“We want to make sure we are in the playoffs, our goal here is to continue to get better,” he said.

“We feel like we are closing the gap between the top teams and ourselves.”

Prince Albert will be seeing a lot of the Art Hauser Centre in the new year, kicking off a five-game homestand against the Tisdale Trojans Jan. 5.

@DustinSaracini –