Going to the all-Ontario boys’ hockey championship is something to shout about.
But when one is part of a team getting the chance to do so, the words can be tough to come by.
Such was the case for the head coach and captain of the Muskies, who will attend OFSAA for an incredible 34th time after beating the host Kenora Broncos 7-3 on Sunday night to sweep the best-of-three NorWOSSA final.
“I’m speechless right now,” admitted Jamie Davis, who in his first year as head coach will guide the Muskies into the all-Ontarios, which take place March 18-21 in Burlington/Oakville.
“These guys work so hard every day,” he noted.
“They’re the only ones that know what they go through and what’s expected,” he added.
“It’s pretty unreal.”
Grade 12 defenceman Carter Brown, with the ‘C’ on his chest and exuberance in his face, was overwhelmed by the thought he will follow in the tradition of the Muskie captains who preceded him in leading their team onto Ontario’s biggest high school hockey stage.
“I can’t even explain my feelings right now,” glowed Brown, one of five seniors on the team that went 14-1 during the regular season and then 4-0 in the playoffs.
“Everything came together for us tonight,” he noted. “We really played well as a team and showed a lot of discipline, which was a challenge at times.
“Our defence was the biggest difference in this series,” Brown added.
“They killed off a lot of penalties, along with our goalies.”
One of those netminders was Jonah Johnson, who watched Derek Kaemingh backstop the Muskies to a 7-1 win in Game 1 here last Thursday night.
He then came out and made stops at key times—especially in the third period after Kenora cut a 5-1 Fort High lead to 5-3 with two goals in 37 seconds by Logan Ginn and Jed Rattai.
“This is my first time going to OFSAA and it’s going to be a fun experience, for sure,” enthused Johnson.
The Muskies opened the scoring when Jarred Taylor passed out front to Graeme Kitt, who put the puck high past Broncos’ goalie Noah Witzke.
Then at 2:56 of the second, Cole Tymkin had his shot stopped by Witzke—only to have Malcolm King scoop up the rebound and knock it home.
Kitt was back for more at 11:49 on an outstanding individual effort, poking the puck around a flat-footed Bronco defenceman and then stretching out to chip the puck past Witzke.
“Coach Jamie was going to get on me for that one if I didn’t score,” laughed Kitt.
“Usually when I do that inside-outside move, he gets on my case.”
A minute later, the tide threatened to turn when Tymkin was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding after colliding with Bronco Cole Gander near centre ice.
Ginn slapped home a spinaround shot from beside the net at 13:59 to trim the gap to 3-1 with still another 3:40 left in the major.
But Fort High’s penalty-killing units locked things down after that, keeping it a two-goal game.
Tyler VanUden, just as he did in Game 1 here, then scored a spirit-sapping goal with 29 seconds to go in the frame by depositing the rebound of Braden Webb’s initial shot behind Witzke.
“That late goal was a killer,” said Broncos’ head coach James Cain.
“To only score one with the five-minute power play when we needed two or three, and then give up that goal was tough.
“But in the third, the guys didn’t give up and made a game of it,” he noted.
Indeed, after David Pryde made it 5-1 on a 2-on-1 set-up from Taylor, Ginn and Rattai got the Mike Richards Arena rocking with their rapid-fire tallies.
With “Bronco Nation” clamouring for their team to fray the visitors’ nerves even further, VanUden restored calm on his bench with a howitzer at 10:28 to put the lead back to three goals.
Sam Tibbs’ steal and subsequent snipe at 17:49 closed the scoring.
And so another OFSAA adventure awaits, with the Muskies looking to add to the program’s legacy of championships in 1986, 1989, and 2001.
“I’m so happy to be part of this group,” said Kitt.
“We’re so close, we’re like a band of brothers. . . .
“We’re going to give our best down there at OFSAA,” he vowed. “I want to win it all.”
“I’m confident in them,” said Davis. “It’s my first trip there and on a personal note, it’s really neat because of the long-standing tradition.
“The weight’s off my shoulders now,” he chuckled. “But there’s still work ahead to do.”
The seedings and schedule for OFSAA were expected to be announced by week’s end.