Third place in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League during the regular season? Not a big deal. A semifinal exit in the SMAAAHL playoffs? No problem.
When faced with the ultimate must-win game, the Prince Albert Mintos were ready.
The Mintos made the most of hosting the West Regional, knocking off the SMAAAHL champion Notre Dame Argos in an all-Saskatchewan regional final to earn their first berth at Canada’s National Midget Championship since 2007.
“The guys are pretty excited,” Mintos head coach Ken Morrison told DiscoverMooseJaw.com. “They’re saying that they’re happy with what they’ve done so far, but they aren’t satisfied. It’s a good opportunity for them and for some of them playing a national championship only comes around once, so they want to do the best they can to take advantage of it.”
Prince Albert is the only team of the six in Moose Jaw that has won a national title; the Mintos hoisted the TELUS Cup in both 2006 and 2007, one of just four teams in the tournament’s 40-year history to repeat.
Prince Albert currently owns the second longest winning streak in national championship history, at 14 games (7-0 in 2006 and 2007). Only Ste-Foy, which won 18 in a row from 1978-80, has put together a longer run without a loss.
A league-leading defence, which allowed just 97 goals in 44 games, helped the Mintos to a third-place finish in the tight SMAAAHL standings, five points back of Battlefords, and five up on Regina and Tisdale, which sat fifth and sixth, respectively.
It looked as if it would be a short stay for Prince Albert in the SMAAAHL playoffs after it lost the first two of a best-of-five series to Tisdale, but the Mintos won in overtime in Game 3 and Game 4, and scored another one-goal victory in Game 5 at home to advance to the semifinals.
Unfortunately, that’s where the playoff run ended, as the Mintos were unceremoniously swept by Battlefords by a combined 14-4, leaving Prince Albert with a 19-day wait until the start of the West Regional.
But the layoff proved to be beneficial for the regional hosts, who started the tournament with identical 3-2 wins over the Thunder Bay Kings and Winnipeg, locking up a spot in the final despite a loss to Notre Dame in the round robin finale.
Facing off with the Argos for the second time in two days, and sixth time on the season (they were 1-4 in the previous five), the Mintos had leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but needed a goal from captain Teal Sobkowicz with 8:54 to go to give them a 4-3 win, confirming a 360-kilometre trip south to the TELUS Cup.
“We made a commitment before the game to play every shift as hard as we can and leave everything on the ice,” an ecstatic Morrison told the Prince Albert Daily Herald after the final. “I thought we played our best game for 60 full minutes.”
Prince Albert will have a chance to become just the sixth team to win at least three national championships, and the third from Saskatchewan, joining the Notre Dame Hounds (1980, 1986, 2009, 2010) and Regina Pat Canadians (1983, 1988, 1994, 1999).
HOW THEY GOT TO MOOSE JAW
Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Tisdale 3-2 (2-3, 1-2, 4-3 OT, 4-3 OT, 5-4)
Semifinal: lost to Battlefords 3-0 (1-7, 2-3 2OT, 1-4)
Round robin: finished second at 2-1 (defeated Thunder Bay 3-2, defeated Winnipeg 3-2, lost to Notre Dame 4-0)
Championship: defeated Notre Dame 4-3
Record: 28-11-4-1 (4th in SMAAAHL)
Goals For: 147 (8th in SMAAAHL)
Goals Against: 97 (1st in SMAAAHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 14 (Nov. 23-Jan. 19)
Top 3 Scorers:
- Teal Sobkowicz – 21G 24A 45P (17th in SMAAAHL)
- Ryan Duret – 19G 25A 44P (22nd in SMAAAHL)
- Keegan Kjargaard – 14G 28A 42P (27th in SMAAAHL)
Goals For: 20
Goals Against: 29
Top 3 Scorers:
- Lance Yaremchuk – 5G 5A 10P
- Dakota Boutin – 2G 7A 9P
- Jared Blaquiere – 7G 1A 8P
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2007 – Prince Albert Mintos | gold medal | 7-0-0 | 21GF 9GA
2006 – Prince Albert Mintos | gold medal | 7-0-0 | 39GF 10GA
1999 – Prince Albert Mintos | fourth place | 2-5-0 | 17GF 28GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
skates well for a big player … heavy, accurate shot … plays lots of minutes in every situation … big and strong … plays with an edge … not afraid to get physical … likes to go into the corners
an offensive leader … very good on the power play … solid two-way player … smart … good hockey sense … very good down low … strong on his skates … protects the puck well … uses his teammates
small and quick … great finisher … likes to score goals … quick release … good offensive instincts … a goal scorer … tough to contain … very shifty … finds open space in the offensive zone
WHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Dakota Boutin – Brandon 2012 (3rd round, 50th overall)
Matthew Parsons – Swift Current 2013 (3rd round, 56th overall)
Ryan Duret – Calgary 2011 (6th round, 111th overall)
Lance Yaremchuk – Prince Albert 2011 (6th round, 116th overall)
Loch Morrison – Calgary 2012 (7th round, 149th overall)
Kody White – Lethbridge 2012 (11th round, 226th overall)