Edwards expecting young Muskies on ice

The task ahead of Glen Edwards is nothing new.
All the 22-year veteran coach of the Muskies’ hockey team has to do is take a very young hockey team, see them through a tryout camp, make the necessary cuts and have them ready to begin defence of their ‘AA’ all-Ontario gold medal this November.
Oh yes, and compete with a new Tier II Junior ‘A’ hockey team in town.
At least part one has been completed.
“We’re pretty happy with the way things went and we’re going to be very young,” said Edwards on Monday about his recently completed four-day Muskies tryout camp at the Ice for Kids arena last week. “But that’s all a part of high school hockey.”
Muskie starters Kevin Webb and Kris Esselink had signed with the Borderland Thunder of the Superior International Junior Hockey League earlier this month while Jeff Friesen is still on the bubble, leaving Edwards expecting only four players to return this year: wingers Nathan Miller and Cole Hayward, and defencemen Lorne Koski and John Woodgate.
It may seem like a long and winding road from last March’s provincial championships, but Edwards said he and assistant coach Ken Christiansen will simply have to work out the kinks.
“I think we’ll be alright. But we have good size and good skating. I think this team will have a shot at winning NorWOSSA and by the middle of the year, we should become a good hockey team.”
About 40 hopefuls took part in the camp with 25 making the roster by late October when full practices resume. Ultimately, Edwards is looking to keep 20 skaters for the long haul.
The loss of Webb, who scored 86 goals and registered 55 assists for Fort High in 33 games, was not a big surprise to Edwards.
“I’m not disappointed. I think Kevin was ready to go,” he remarked. “I think this is a good challenge for him. We were looking to lose Kevin this year either to a local or out of town team.”
“He had a great year last year and it was a positive move,” he added.
Webb, last year’s co-MVP, said he did not discuss with Edwards or Christiansen directly on his signing with the Thunder, but agreed with his former coach.
“I thought it would be a better way to go,” said the 18-year old who will entering his OAC year. “[The SIJHL] should have a tougher league, faster hockey and a lot of out of town games.”
However, Esselink’s departure was another matter.
“We were hoping to have Kris back. They were high on him. I felt he would have benefited from one more year of high school hockey,” he said.
No doubt, the prospects a junior hockey league in town brings will catch the eye of local players.
“Esselink had to make a tough decision,” said Thunder general manager Brent Tookenay. “I think with the lure of junior hockey and the kids not having to leave home is a big selling point.”
Another issue has been fan base. Edwards said the Muskies average 600 to 700 fans to their games which bring close to $10,000 to the program– an invaluable amount since the school cut back its funding.
He said its too early to tell how much of a dent 24 Thunder home games will make in Muskies’ attendance.
“I think it will be good for the town and the fans of Fort Frances. It will hurt our competitive ability and we’ll wait and see how it effects our fan base. We are concerned about that,” he said. “The high school team has depended on fans to come to the arena.”