Mintos’ provincial reps. reflect on WHL Cup
Nearly a week after the annual WHL Cup wrapped up in Calgary, two of Saskatchewan’s skaters in the tournament reflected on time spent with their provincial team and what could have been after their squad tallied one win and four losses.
Both Josh Pillar and Alex Ozar see regular ice time with the Midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos – Pillar as a forward and Ozar as a defenceman. They kept their respective roles while battling against teams from British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba.
The annual round-robin style tournament hosts the best under-16 aged players from Canada’s four western provinces.
The Mintos’ defenceman said the quality of players at the tournament stood out for him.
“I haven’t really seen any of those other players play before, and they were really good – (in their) systems, and they work well together.”
Ozar tallied one goal and three assists through his team’s five games.
Saskatchewan’s lone win came against Manitoba during the roundrobin phase of the tournament on Oct. 19.
In that game, Ozar assisted on the game-winning goal, a powerplay marker scored by Austin Dycer.
Comparing that win with his team’s four losses, their puck movement was more effective, Ozar said.
“We were moving our feet and forcing their defence, so they could commit turnovers. But in our other games we weren’t moving our feet. It was making it easier for (the opposing teams’) defence to just bring the puck up.”
Pillar said his team’s puck possession was also better in the winning game.
“We definitely had more zone time in the win. I guess in our last game (a bronze medal loss to Manitoba), we had lots of zone time. But we just played a lot better offensively than we did in the other games in the win.”
Pillar was unable to muster any goals or assists in the tournament, a point he spoke on.
“It wasn’t as good offensively as I wanted to be, but overall I thought I worked hard and played well.”
Pillar agreed that the high quality play from teams like Alberta and B.C. stuck out for him. “It felt like they had already all played together (prior to the tournament), but they haven’t. They were just all that good.”
Team Saskatchewan suffered heavy defeats to B.C. and Alberta.
Alberta beat the team 8-3 on the tournament’s first day, Oct 18. Day 2 saw team Sask. best Manitoba 4-3.
Then B.C. toppled the prairie team 6-0 on Oct. 20. Saskatchewan finished round-robin play with a 1-2 record, set to play B.C. again in the semi-final on Oct. 21.
That game was worse than the previous; B.C. won 7-0, although Pillar did earn the game’s second star nomination.
That led to his side playing Manitoba for the bronze medal on Oct. 22. Manitoba won 4-2 and repeated as the bronze medal winners in the tournament.
Josh Pillar (19) skates with the puck against a team B.C. defender at the 2017 WHL Cup in Calgary.