Familiar result for Muskie boys at Piper Classic

The head coach of the Muskie boys’ hockey team had to be experiencing déja vu of the worst kind over the weekend at the Piper Classic tournament in Winnipeg.
Shane Bliss watched as his team stormed out of the gates, dominating the competition during the round-robin portion of the four-day tourney, only to fall short when the games mattered most.
“We’ve done this four years in a row now—won our pool and then lost the semi-final game” he lamented. “It’s kind of tiring.”
The latest in a string of disappointing results at the Piper Classic tournament came in the form of a 5-4 loss to Stonewall in the first game of the playoff round Saturday.
And while losing is always disappointing for a team that currently boasts an overall record of 38-7-1 this season, the manner in which the black-and-gold lost in their semi-final showdown with Stonewall left a bitter taste in Bliss’ mouth.
“We started the game really flat,” he remarked. “We were standing around watching those guys skate.”
Despite the slow start, it was the Muskies who took the early lead courtesy of assistant captain Mitch Green’s 13th goal of the campaign.
But the Muskie advantage did not last long as Stonewall took advantage of some uninspired play by the black-and-gold to score four unanswered goals (two in the first period and two early in the second) to grab a commanding lead.
“We went into a shell or something, I don’t know,” Bliss said. “We just weren’t ourselves.
“We weren’t skating, we weren’t hustling, and we ended up down 4-1 at one point.”
In an attempt to stir up his team, Bliss pulled starting goalie David Moen in favour of Rich Wieringa after Stonewall’s fourth goal.
“He let in some goals but the shots never should have gotten off,” Bliss said of his decision to pull Moen. “Guys should have had their man but they didn’t.
“I decided to give our team a jolt and wake the players up a bit.”
The move appeared to pay off as Matt Hebert scored a pair of power-play markers later in the frame to cut the deficit to a single goal.
Muskie captain Ryan Witherspoon then tied the game at 4-4 early in the third with his 24th goal of the season.
But despite their fervent comeback, the Muskies ultimately fell short as Stonewall scored with six minutes left in regulation time and then held on for the 5-4 win.
“It was just some defensive lapses again in our own zone,” Bliss said. “We played poorly in our own end and it cost us.”
The Muskies had opened the Piper Classic with a 6-1 thrashing of St. James on Thursday night. Witherspoon led the charge in that one, netting a hat trick, while Matt McLellan, Blake Wepruk, and Mike Jourdain added singles.
Wieringa picked up the win between the pipes.
The Muskies then completed the round-robin with a pair of wins Friday—doubling Sisler 4-2 that afternoon before cruising to a 7-2 win over Silver Heights that night.
Brian Glavish, Joe Basaraba, Hebert, and Witherspoon tallied in the Sisler game while Wieringa earned the win.
In the nightcap, Riley Caul tallied twice while Basaraba, Witherspoon, Glavish Green, and Mike McCaig also scored en route to the blowout win over Silver Heights.
Moen picked up the win in goal.
Witherspoon led the black-and-gold in scoring over the weekend—netting six goals in the team’s four games. His strong play of late has been crucial in the Muskies overcoming a string of injuries to some of their top offensive performers.
“We had George Halverson out of the lineup this weekend,” Bliss noted. “He didn’t play a game due to his injury and he was our leading scorer, so somebody was going to have to pick up the slack.
“‘Spooner’ played great. He was out there all the time and he was a force putting pucks in the net,” Bliss added.