You can’t win them all.
The Muskie boys’ hockey team suffered their first defeat of the season—6-1 to the St. Paul’s Crusaders—in the championship game of the Genesis Hospitality high school hockey tournament in Brandon, Man. over the weekend.
The loss snapped a string of 18-consecutive victories to start the season (including NorWOSSA, exhibition, and tournament (play).
“We didn’t play our best hockey game,” Muskie head coach Shane Bliss said. “But at the same time, they [St. Paul’s] played very well and maybe they didn’t let us play our best hockey game.
“We made a few mistakes—mistakes that we could get away with against weaker teams [but] they made us pay for them,” Bliss added.
The Crusaders proved they were a markedly more talented team than any the black-and-gold had faced so far this season by dominating almost every facet of play in the final.
“Overall, we haven’t played too many teams like that one,” Bliss said of the Crusaders. “That was definitely the best one we’ve played so far.
“They’re ranked number-one in Manitoba right now and I think they deserve it [the ranking] based on what I saw.”
Having now suffered their first defeat of the season, Bliss stressed the importance of learning from the experience.
“You know you’re going to lose at some point,” he said. “I just think it’s very crucial you learn something it.
“I think the boys picked up some things from the loss,” he added.
“We didn’t pass well or move our feet, and we didn’t pass the puck fast enough, I think they learned from that.”
Captain Ryan Witherspoon was the Muskies’ lone goal scorer against St. Paul’s.
Despite losing in the championship game Sunday, Bliss was pleased with both his team’s overall performance during the four-day tournament and the manner in which his players conducted themselves both on and off the ice.
“Other teams in the tournament really raved about how our kids worked so hard and forechecked so hard,” he said. “They [the opposition] really didn’t know what to do because we kept coming and kept coming and kept coming.
“We also had plenty of comments on the boys about their behaviour and their manners, which is always nice to hear,” he added.
The Muskies got off to a strong start at the tournament, dominating both of their round-robin opponents, including a 7-1 win over the Transcona Titans in their opening game Thursday night.
Ryan Witherspoon led the way with a pair of goals while Zach McCool, Kyle Turgeon, Taylor Jorgenson, Matt DePiero, and Brian Glavish all added singles.
Richie Wieringa earned the win between the pipes.
The Muskies then replicated their offensive performance a day later, dismantling the Birtle-St. Lazare Falcons by that same 7-1 score.
This time it was George Halverson who had a pair of goals, with Patrick Bobczynski, Turgeon, Joe Basaraba, Mitch Green, and Matt McLellan also scoring.
David Moen earned the win in goal.
The Muskies next defeated the Oak Park Raiders 6-3 in the quarter-finals on Saturday morning. Witherspoon had a hat trick in that one, with Mike Jourdain, Jorgenson, and Basaraba netting singles.
Wieringa earned the win between the pipes.
The Muskies continued their strong play in the semi-finals later Saturday, earning a 5-1 victory over the host Crocus Plains Plainsmen.
Witherspoon led the attack with a pair of goals while Blake Wepruk, Jorgenson, and Basaraba added the others.
Moen earned the win, continuing the Muskies’ trend of alternating goalies in tournament play.
Witherspoon and Bobczynski both were selected to the tournament all-star team as a result of their strong play throughout the four days.
You can’t win them all.