Another near miss

Close shaves lead to razor burn, but the Muskie variety inevitably lead to heartburn.
Saturday’s shootout loss here by the local high school squad to the highly-touted St. Ignatius Falcons in the NWOSSAA boys’ soccer championship was yet another painful chapter in what has become the Year of the Near-Miss.
Look back to late November and Game One of the best-of-three NWOSSAA girls’ basketball playoffs against the Churchill Trojans, held in “The Fish Tank” before a throng of supporters from the school and throughout the community.
The black-and-gold had the heavily-favoured Trojans on the run, trailing by only two points with less than six minutes left. An upset in the opener may have paved the way to the all-Ontarios for the Muskies.
But then forward Danielle McGee crashed to the floor while diving for a rebound and damaged her knee to the point where she had to leave the game temporarily. Fort Frances proceeded to get outscored 13-1 down the stretch, and were ripe for the picking in Game Two the following day to quash their OFSAA hopes.
Then there was the NorWOSSA senior girls’ volleyball final between the Muskies and the Dryden Eagles—again in the friendly confines of the Fort High gym.
The local queens of the court trailed 2-1 in the best-of-five match, and were down 8-2 in the fourth game. But a memorable comeback had them one point away from tying the match and setting up a fifth and deciding game, which would have had them riding a sizable wave of momentum.
What transpired was an unforgettable seesaw affair, with neither team willing to lay down and die. For 15 minutes, the two were locked in pitched battle, with one side coming within a point of clinching the game, and the other then stopping them cold.
Finally, a Dryden block of a Tricia Smith kill attempt concluded a 37-35 classic that ended the Muskies’ three-year run as champions.
This past Saturday was the boys’ turn to have the carrot held out in front of their nose—only to have it slip through their grasp at the last second.
Two one-goal comebacks against the Manitouwadge Wolverines earlier in the day en route to a 4-3 overtime win already had Muskie supporters experiencing heart palpitations.
Then with the game seemingly lost against St. Ignatius as the final seconds withered away from the clock, Fort Frances got divine intervention from the soccer gods—receiving a penalty kick for a handball infraction by the Falcons in their own 18-yard box.
One pinpoint Matt Basaraba kick later and it was bedlam on the field, at the sidelines, and in the bleachers.
With overtime proving worthless, the two sides took the “High Noon” route and traded duelling kicks in a high-stakes penalty shootout.
Every kick was saturated with drama, and none moreso than when the Muskie Andrew Curr, who had provided dependable defence through the day, stepped up to take his shot at keeping the Muskies alive.
Alas, the soccer gods decided to turn their backs on Fort Frances at the worst possible time as the shot sailed wide and sent the fortunate Falcons cruising onward to the all-Ontarios in Timmins this weekend.
Sport is an unforgiving beast at times, encouraging maximum effort yet saving the glamorous rewards only for the victors.
But the Muskie squads of this 2002-03 school year who came within inches of achieving even greater glory can be proud of a legacy of pride and determination which hopefully will resonate throughout the years to come—and spark the teams of the future to finish the job their predecessors started.
• • •
Applications are now being accepted by the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association for the town’s four ‘AA’ teams, as well as league conveners in various age division.
Those wanting to coach the Atom, PeeWee, Bantam, or Midget ‘AA’ teams should submit their coaching qualifications, experience, and philosophies in writing.
Openings also are available for conveners at the Novice, Tom Thumb, Atom, PeeWee, Bantam, or Midget levels, and will be assisted by a FFMHA board member in their duties.
Anyone interested should get their applications in by June 18 to Fort Frances Minor Hockey, Box 306, Fort Frances, Ont., P9A 3M7.
• • •
Congratulations to International Falls native Kevin Constantine on being named yesterday as the first-ever head coach of the expansion Everett (Wash.) Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.
Constantine, who provided keen insights during his time as a studio analyst with TSN as part of their NHL playoff coverage this spring, posted a record of 159-153-66 with the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New Jersey Devils in his time in the big show.
He is the only coach in league history to lead two eighth-seeded teams (the ’94 Sharks and the ’99 Penguins) to first-round upsets in the playoffs, and led the Sharks to a league-record 58-point improvement in the 1993-94 season.
His hard-nosed style hasn’t gone over well in the pros, where players seem to hold an inordinate amount of power when it comes to which coaches survive and which are sent to the unemployment line.
But a junior team in its inaugural campaign definitely could be the beneficiary of Constantine’s disciplined approach. He certainly won’t allow his troops to get pushed around because they’re the new kid on the block.
If you are planning any sporting events, or have some sports-related information or scores, feel free to reach me at 274-5373 ext. 237 or by e-mail at jpayeur@fortfrances.com

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