After scoring 42 goals to lead the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League as a 15-year-old last season, Prince Albert Mintos sophomore Kyrell Sopotyk was eager to build on that season only to see himself on the sideline for the first 27 games to injury.
He’s made up for lost time in his return as the Mintos have picked up three straight overtime victories. Their latest came on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre with a 2-1 win over the Saskatoon Contacts in Sopotyk’s first game at the Art Hauser Centre this year. In Yorkton last weekend against the Maulers, Sopotyk scored the OT winner in Saturday’s 3-2 win and had four helpers in Sunday’s 4-3 extra time victory.
“It’s super exciting. People were waiting for me to come back and have a good first game back,” Sopotyk said. “It was exciting. I’m just trying to give the fans and the team what they were waiting for. It’s going my way so far.”
Although he was injured, Sopotyk was named the Mintos’ captain shortly after the season began and waited until his return to stitch a ‘C’ on his No. 12 jersey. Waiting to wear that captain’s sweater and return to the Mintos was the hardest part.
“It was tough. I just kept battling and kept pushing through," Sopotyk said. "I kept battling and did everything I could off ice to help myself. But it was tough watching the games, I really missed it.”
On Thursday’s game, Sopotyk provided the screen in front of the net on the Mintos’ tying goal in front of Contacts goaltender Rayce Ramsay. Although Sopotyk’s stick appeared to have been over the crossbar, the officials ruled that he didn’t touch it. They credited the goal to Mintos defenceman Kade McMillen, who shot the puck from the point.
Luke Nkwama scored the OT winner, his 13th of the season after Alex Moar found him open in front of the net.
Thursday’s game featured four Prince Albert Raiders prospects. They drafted Cohner Saleski in the first round, 17th overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Saleski’s season has been riddled by injuries, he was originally left off Team Saskatchewan for the WHL Cup this year, but was able to get healthy and win a spot back. Saleski has 12 points in 23 games. Davin Griffin, the Raiders’ fifth round pick of 2017, leads the Contacts in scoring with 27 points in 28 games and skates on the top line with Saleski. Both Saleski and Griffin assisted on the Contacts’ lone goal, scored by Brodie Girod.
The Mintos also feature Dylan Scriven, seventh round pick in 2017, as well as listed player Austin Lamotte.
Busy weekend ahead
The Mintos will stick around at home with a pair of games at the Art Hauser Centre, Saturday against the Moose Jaw Generals and Sunday against the Notre Dame Argos. Both of those games start at 1:30 p.m.
On Twitter: @jeff_paNOW
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