Muskie boys fall short in Brandon

Jamie Mountain

The Muskie boys’ hockey team definitely has nothing to hang its head about.
Fort High went 3-0-1 before falling 3-1 to the Morris Mavericks in the ‘B’-side final at the annual Victoria Inns tournament in Brandon, Man. held Friday through Sunday.
Carson Noga opened the scoring early in the first period of the final when he burst past the Mavericks’ defence and lifted a backhander past their goalie.
But that’s all the offence the black-and-gold would get as the Mavericks scored once in the second period and twice more in the third to claim the ‘B’ title.
Darian Klem suffered the loss between the pipes.
“I’d say, for the most part, we have to be fairly pleased with our effort,” head coach Jordan Sinclair said of the weekend tournament.
“We were in every game and really, had we scored two more goals, we maybe could have found ourselves in the championship game, that’s really how close it was.
“To me, our biggest challenge was dealing with the size of the other teams,” he noted.
“I felt like we got pushed around a little too much and didn’t win as many battles as we needed to,” he admitted.
“But we addressed it and I think the guys saw some areas of our game we need to improve on, and I’m confident we will do so.”
The Muskies, who sport a 2-2 record in NorWOSSA play, resume league action tonight when they head to Kenora to face the Broncos.
Then they’ll host those same Broncos on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena in a make-up game for the one that was postponed back on Nov. 13.
The black-and-gold will be honouring the late Barney Maher prior to the game.
“We know that we really let them off the hook last time up in Kenora and so we certainly need to be better and do a better job of converting,” Sinclair said of the Broncos.
“I’m certain that we will do so,” he added.
“They can be a pretty chippy team and very undisciplined at times, so we need to make sure that we don’t get dragged into it and play hard between the whistles.”
As for the tournament in Brandon, the Muskies had opened play Friday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Garden City Fighting Gophers.
Sheldon Kelly opened the scoring for Fort High with under two minutes to go in the first period.
But the Fighting Gophers struck back with two tallies in the second to grab a 2-1 lead.
Nolan Mann tipped home a point blast by Austin Armstrong with 3:20 left in the third to force overtime.
After overtime solved nothing, the game moved into the shootout.
Garden City made good on both of its attempts while the Muskies were stopped on theirs.
Klem took the tough-luck loss between the pipes.
But the black-and-gold rebounded in a big way later Friday with a 5-4 shootout win over the Major Pratt School/Rossburn Collegiate Trojans.
After a Muskie turnover, the Trojans opened the scoring with 10:50 left in the first.
Then with the black-and-gold killing a penalty later in the frame, Ryan Redford forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fired a shot on the Trojans’ net.
Armstrong grabbed the rebound and promptly fired it home to knot it at 1-1.
The Trojans then beat Muskie goalie Jaden Cooper with 3:20 to go in the frame to go ahead 2-1.
Peyton Avis drew Fort High level once again when he cashed in on the rebound off an Armstrong point blast with 7:50 left in the second.
Avis then found a rebound of Jake Barker’s shot to give the Muskies their first lead at 3-2 with 3:09 to go in the frame.
Unfortunately for the Muskies, Cooper later mishandled a puck in the corner with his team on a power play and the Trojans capitalized to even it.
Avis then capped his hat trick as he skated past the Trojans’ defence and wired a shot home to put the Muskies back on top 4-3 with just nine seconds to go before intermission.
A bout of bad luck saw the puck go in off a Muskie skate to knot it at 4-4 with 6:29 left in regulation.
After overtime solved nothing, the game moved to a shootout.
Cooper saved the Trojans’ first attempt while Connor Nelson made good on his for the Muskies with a backhander.
The Trojans missed the net in the second round while Avis tried to deke wide but was denied with a pad save.
Cooper then stoned the Trojans’ final shooter to preserve the black-and-gold’s win.
The Muskies then doubled the Kelvin Clippers 4-2 on Saturday morning.
The Clippers opened the scoring with a shot that beat a screened Klem with 8:35 to go in the first period, but Avis netted a rebound less than two minutes later to knot it at 1-1.
After some penalty trouble for the Muskies, the Clippers retook the lead at 2-1 with a point blast over Klem with 6:03 to go in the second.
But Ashton Cousineau fed a pass to Mike Ward on a 2-on-1 later in the frame and he made no mistake with a shot through the five-hole to knot the score at 2-2.
After the Clippers took a double-minor check to the head penalty, Barker tapped home a pass to put the Muskies up by one with 2:48 to go.
Jace Dittaro and Kelly hooked up on a 2-on-1 chance in third, with Kelly firing a shot through the Clippers’ goalie’s five-hole to cap the scoring with just under 11 minutes to go in the third.
The Muskies then advanced to the ‘B’-side semi-final with a 5-4 overtime win over the Westwood Warriors that afternoon.
Brady Bodnarchuk opened the scoring with under five minutes to go in the first period.
After the Warriors tied it early in the third, Cole Magill answered just seven seconds later to put the black-and-gold back up 2-1.
The Warriors then struck with two goals to forge ahead 3-2 with 12:27 to go.
Mann then grabbed the rebound of a point blast and outwaited the Warriors’ goalie before tucking in a backhand to knot it at 3-3 with just over three minutes left.
The Muskies then grabbed the lead once again on a power play shortly after when Mann fired home a cross-ice feed from Bodnarchuk.
The Warriors pulled their goalie late in an attempt to tie it and they made good when they tipped a shot home with 15 seconds left to force overtime.
Dittaro then carried the puck into the Westwood zone before sending a pass to Mann in the slot, who buried it top shelf to give the Muskies the win.
“I thought the biggest thing that stood out to me was in each game was that we got scoring and contribution from all three lines,” noted Sinclair.
“I think that is real important and positive for us because we talked a lot about the need to play and score and win by committee.
“I felt, too, that both goalies stepped up and played well when called upon,” he lauded.
On the injury front, Declan Webb (broken arm) and Jace Jackson (broken thumb) remain out long-term while Nick Gurski is listed as “day-to-day” with a shoulder injury.
Connor Nelson also suffered a fractured wrist/arm over the weekend and could be out for up to six weeks.
Sinclair noted he would be re-evaluated in a week or so.