The Muskie boys’ hockey team swept their way to St. Catharines.
After brooming the Red Lake Rams in the best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-finals, the black-and-gold did the same to the Dryden Eagles in the final to advance to the all-Ontarios in St. Catharines on March 23-26.
Fort High opened the best-of-three series with a 5-4 overtime win here Friday night, then blanked the host Eagles 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Muskie head coach Shawn Jourdain feels that to be successful at the provincials, his troops are going to have to give an effort every second they’re on the ice.
“We’re just going to have to play the full 60 minutes,” he stressed. “Teams are very good down there and we can’t have a let-up.”
The Muskies outmatched the Eagles in both games even though they went with a bench that was four players shorter than Dryden’s.
Still, Jourdain felt the return of Donovan Cousineau, Jacob Witherspoon, and David Chambers was vital to keeping the black-and-gold’s legs moving.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape. I don’t think that was a problem,” he noted after Friday night’s win.
“We ran Donovan pretty hard tonight [Friday], and you expect big games out of big players, and he delivered tonight,” added Jourdain.
“I told him I was going to ride him every second shift. He was going to go out there and be our go-to guy.”
Cousineau tallied twice in Friday’s game, including the opening goal.
Returning from a wrist injury, Cousineau beat Eagles’ goalie Zach Lake 4:28 into the first.
Davis Smith and Dryden’s Jared Stratford then exchanged goals 14 seconds apart midway through the frame before Eagles’ forward Ryan Lobreau banged home a puck at 13:51 to even the score at 2-2.
Muskie forward Colton Spicer had a couple of glorious chances to take back the lead late in the period, having a wrister gloved by Lake before fanning on an open net.
The black-and-gold did regain the lead midway through the second, however, as Jacob Witherspoon, returning from a concussion, slammed home a cross-crease pass from Cousineau at 11:34.
Jourdain was impressed with Witherspoon’s impact given he was coming off a concussion.
“He had a tough time adjusting to the speed, but being out three weeks that’s going to happen,” Jourdain reasoned.
“We just had him sit and watch for a few minutes, and then we put him right back in there, and he did an admirable job.”
The Eagles fought back once again as Blair Dingwall tapped a feed from Ethan Egli past Muskie goalie Devin Stromness at 16:22 to knot the score.
The teams finished the period by exchanging wrist shot tallies as Cousineau and Lobreau each recorded their second goals of the game 1:18 apart to head into the second intermission tied at 4-4.
There was no scoring in the third, although each goalie was forced to make a key save to make that happen.
Lake was forced to respond to a redirection by Matt DePiero while Stromness stymied a wide-open Daimon Wesley late in regulation time.
Fort High didn’t waste much time wrapping up the win in overtime.
Spicer scored a bit of redemption when he fed assistant captain Brendan Cawston on a partial break.
Cawston then chipped the puck past Lake just before he and Lobreau careened into the goalie—sending all three players and the net flying.
The Muskies had opened the overtime with Devin Ball in the box, but felt that once the penalty was killed off, their opportunity to strike would become clear.
“We didn’t say too much [before overtime],” Jourdain noted. “We just went through how we tried to get back to five-on-five because I thought we played a pretty good hockey game.
“Once we get it in their zone, we’re a pretty tough team to handle,” he added. “We started off not pressing real hard, and then we switched it about three-quarters of the way through the third period, pressing a little bit more.
“And once we got on the puck in their zone, we’re a pretty good hockey team.”
In Sunday afternoon’s clincher, Spicer opened the scoring on the power play while captain Jamie Kaun also scored on the man-advantage to crank the lead to 2-0.
Kaun later added an empty-netter to seal the deal and send the Muskies to St. Catharines.
Wes Brown earned the shutout in goal.
“We played a really solid game all around,” lauded Jourdain. “We kept their guys in check pretty much the entire game.
“The only scoring chances they got on the power-play. Five-on-five, we were the better team.”
Jourdain insisted that even though Stromness and Brown each started a game, there is no goalie controversy heading to the season’s biggest stage.
“Goaltending, they’ve both been pretty steady all year long,” he remarked. “We’ll decide once we get down to the all-Ontarios.
“Generally, we split the duties, but we’ll see when we get down there.”