Muskie boys earn all-Ontario berth

Mitch Calvert

The Muskie boys’ hockey team punched their ticket to the all-Ontarios with a workmanlike 5-2 victory over the Dryden Eagles on Sunday to sweep their best-of-three NorWOSSA final.
It will mark Fort High’s sixth-straight trip to OFSAA, which is taking place March 24-27 in North Bay.
Mike Jourdain scored in each of the first two periods while Donovan Cousineau, Blake Wepruk, and Matt DePiero added singles.
Corbin Gervasi and Kevin Trott replied for the host Eagles.
The Muskies were penalized 10 times but managed to come out mostly unscathed thanks, in large part, to solid penalty-killing.
“Playoff hockey is hard, gritty hockey and that stuff happens, but we do have to try to stay out of the box,” DePiero warned. “It doesn’t matter how good you’re playing, if you’re in the box, you can’t win.”
Sunday’s win came on the heels of a 6-2 thrashing the Muskies laid on the Eagles in Friday night’s opener at the Ice for Kids Arena.
DePiero said discipline will be especially important in North Bay when the black-and-gold face some top-notch competition.
“We have to stay out of the penalty box, and we have to make sure we’re out-working teams and working together as a team,” he stressed.
“That will bring us to that next level to compete at OFSAA.”
DePiero, who scored three goals in the two-game sweep of the Eagles, opened the scoring just 2:27 into Friday’s game.
“Matt Goldamer got himself in the open and he did all the work and got checked, and I just took the puck and put it in the net,” DePiero recalled.
DePiero and his linemates (Goldamer and Ryan Shortreed), looked upon to provide more of a checking and penalty-killing role most of the season, have exploded offensively in the playoffs and give Fort High three capable scoring units.
“We’ve been playing together most of the year,” DePiero noted. “But since the playoffs started, we’ve been getting some points and added a third line that we needed.
“At the same time, I like penalty killing, hard work, and digging, and that’s what it takes on the penalty kill,” he added. “I enjoy the thrill of being out there and keeping them from scoring out on the power play.”
Taylor Jorgenson added to the Muskies’ lead Friday, making it 2-0 just before the midway point of the first, but the Eagles clawed back with goals by Matt Bartlett and Trott in a span of 1:15 to knot the score after 20 minutes.
The Muskies stormed back in the second, though, breaking the deadlock when Jamie Kaun’s point shot found its way through a maze of bodies 13:20 into the period.
Goldamer extended the lead to 4-2 when he converted a one-timer off a pass from DePiero.
The third line then struck again when DePiero’s wrist shot beat goalie Kim Wildhaber clean to give the black-and-gold a comfortable lead into the second intermission.
Wepruk netted the lone goal of the third period to ice the win although Muskie goalie Jamison Shortreed was called upon to make a few tough saves down the stretch, including one on a breakaway.
The Muskies have two solid weeks to prepare for the OFSAA tournament, and will look to schedule a few exhibition games before then.
“We’re going to need every bit of it to get ready,” head coach Shawn Jourdain stressed. “We’ll need to find a game or two in there just to keep us sharp.
“I know the [Thunder Bay] Kings were interested, but I’ll have to get a hold of them this week to see.”
The black-and-gold were ousted from last year’s OFSAA tournament in Ottawa with a 3-1 loss to the John McCrae Bulldogs in their final round-robin game—failing to advance out of their pool to the quarter-finals.
They’re looking to make a longer run this year in North Bay.
“We had high expectations when we went down there [to Ottawa], but we weren’t able to fulfill them,” DePiero said of last year’s tournament. “Hopefully this year we can bounce back and have a good showing.”
Muskie assistant coach Ken Christiansen, who has been to his fair share of OFSAA tournaments dating back to the 1970s, said anything can happen in a condensed format.
“It’s a tough go down there. Seven games in four days, and an injury here or there, and things can change in a hurry,” he warned.
“We need to focus on the little things these next two weeks, playing our positions, forechecking, and just tuning up everything,” Christiansen added. “There won’t be any easy teams there.
“We don’t know where we are seeded yet, so once we find that out, we’ll have a little better idea.
“But we’ll have to be ready to play every game, that’s for sure,” he stressed.
Tune in to for video highlights.