The Muskie boys’ hockey team has put itself into a great position to lock up home-ice advantage throughout the NorWOSSA playoffs, which get underway next week.
But in order to do that, they’ll need to have another strong effort tomorrow when they host the fifth-place Dryden Eagles at 7 p.m. at “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena).
The Muskies, who currently sport an 11-3 record in league play, won the previous two matchups against the Eagles by identical 6-5 scores and another close game likely is in store.
“[The] Dryden game is a big one for us with first place on the line and an opportunity to lock up home ice throughout the playoffs,” said Muskie head coach Jordan Sinclair.
“We will spend a lot of time working on the details and the skills involved in moving the puck up the ice and our zone exits, as well as our special teams,” he noted.
Sinclair also said his squad is feeling confident about their game as they head into the post-season.
“It’s really all in the details and doing the little things right, making guaranteed plays, and playing disciplined,” he stressed both about tomorrow’s game and looking ahead to the playoffs.
“I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve seen in the past few weeks, and we really just have to make sure we are not making things easy on the other team by making things hard on ourselves,” he reasoned.
The Muskies head into this week fresh off splitting a pair of road games against the host Sioux Lookout Warriors (12-3) on Sunday and Monday.
A short-handed goal in the third period proved to be the difference as the Warriors held on for a 5-4 win Monday afternoon.
The Muskies started off well, opening the scoring early in the first period.
After winning a face-off in the Muskies’ own zone, Cole Magill streaked up the ice on a give-and-go with Matt Spence before snapping a shot home.
Then after some pressure by the Warriors (12-3) on a man advantage, they were able to beat Muskie goalie Darian Klem to knot it at 1-1.
Peyton Avis then banged in the rebound of Austin Armstrong’s shot later in the frame to put the Muskies up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Warriors wasted little time in tying the score once again as they netted the equalizer 1:54 into the second.
Carson Noga corralled a stretch pass before taking a shot on the Warriors’ net from the slot, which Spence banged the rebound of home to put the Muskies back on top 3-2 near the five-minute mark.
After Klem fell down a few minutes later, the Warriors were able to capitalize and knotted it at 3-3.
The Warriors then tipped in a point shot at 10:04 to forge ahead 4-3 after 40 minutes.
Sioux Lookout then forced Noga to turn the puck over at the blueline while the Muskies were on a man advantage, with the Warriors then netting a breakaway goal to stake themselves to a two-goal cushion.
Jake Barker then stripped a Warrior of the puck at the blueline before tallying on a breakaway of his own to trim it to 5-4 with less than two minutes to go.
The Muskies then pulled Klem with 1:23 left in attempt to force overtime but couldn’t notch the equalizer.
On Sunday night, the Muskies outlasted the Warriors’ high-powered offence in a 6-4 win.
After a shot from the point by Connor Nelson on a man advantage, Spence, Barker, and Magill all batted at the loose puck until it found its way into the back of the net to open the scoring early in the first period.
The Warriors then forced Muskie forward Mikel Ward into turning the puck over in front of the net and buried it past Klem to knot it at 1-1 after 20 minutes.
The Muskies found themselves down by two men in the second frame but Avis stripped the puck from the Warriors before finding Barker with a pass, who made no mistake in burying it to put the Muskies up 2-1.
Ward then redirected a Jace Jackson point blast home later in frame to stake the Muskies to a two-goal cushion after 40 minutes.
A turnover in the Muskies’ zone led to the Warriors trimming it to 3-2 but Nelson scored on a man advantage to give Fort High a two-goal cushion once again early in the third.
A ferocious forecheck by Noga freed the puck up for Brady Bodnarchuk, who buried one into the Warriors’ net to push it to 5-2 near the midway point of the period.
The Warriors caught a lucky bounce and put a shot past Klem’s blocker before pulling the goalie with less than three minutes to go and capitalizing again to trim it to 5-4.
But Barker replied for the Muskies shortly afterwards to cap the scoring
“I thought the first game we skated and checked really well,” Sinclair lauded. “We did a real good job of limiting there chances and really didn’t give them many good chances at all.
“We played desperate and hungry,” he added. “I thought we got on top of their ‘D’ quickly and created a lot of turnovers, and were strong positionally to break up a lot of plays they tried to make out of their zone, which resulted on good scoring chances for us.
“I think in the second game we just didn’t have enough jam,” Sinclair admitted.
“We didn’t play with enough passion and our compete wasn’t what it needed to be for us to win,” he added. “We took too many penalties and gave up too many goals against.
“With all of that being said, we still led at times in the game and had a chance at the end of the game only being down one,” Sinclair noted.
“So you have to find the positives in that,” he reasoned. “Knowing that we weren’t very sharp and certainly didn’t have our best stuff [but] we still had an opportunity to win the game and, again, prove to ourselves that we are more than capable of beating that team.”