As the NorWOSSA regular-season enters its final weeks of play, the Muskie boys’ hockey team was looking to fine-tune a few things in an exhibition showdown with the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) on Sunday afternoon in Emo.
Skating away with a decisive 12-2 drubbing, it certainly seems as if the Muskies are set for the stretch drive.
“We have some big league games coming up so we want to make sure that we’re ready for that,” Muskie head coach Shawn Jourdain noted.
“We got into some bad habits late in the third, but we were able to work on our break-out plays and puck movement into scoring areas, so I thought that we played well all around,” he added.
Leading the way on offence for the black-and-gold was winger Robbie Rea, who notched a natural hat trick in the first period as he finished up the afternoon with a five-goal performance.
“We knew that this was going to be a little bit of an easier game,” Rea admitted.
“When I was living in Kenora for a bit [while playing for the Kenora Thistles ‘AAA’ program], I had a chance to watch them practice so I knew that they were a soft team to begin with,” he remarked.
“It was just one of those games that you can use to practice at doing things better,” he stressed.
“And you also have a chance to learn a few different things and try some new things just to see what can happen.”
Meanwhile, despite watching his team get shellacked by a double-digit margin, Saints’ coach Travis Batters felt his team could take away a lot from Sunday’s game.
“Considering that we are about two years younger than the Muskies, I thought we handled ourselves very well,” Batters said of his team, which is made up mainly of Grade 9 and 10 players.
“We’re in a redevelopment stage here but I think we have a team to build on for the next three or four seasons,” he added.
It only took 41 seconds for the Muskies to get on the scoreboard as Jeff Davis banged home a rebound by Saints’ goalie Ryan Ferguson to give his team an early lead.
After Colton Spicer scored off a face-off to put Fort High up by a pair of goals a couple of minutes later, Rea’s fireworks extravaganza kicked off with a bang at the 8:02 mark of the opening frame as he made a great end-to-end rush before firing the puck to the top of the net.
“It all just kind of happened really,” Rea recalled. “As I came back to my own end of the ice, I saw that they were heading off on a line change.
“From there, I was able to find a hole and took it, and I ended up getting in close to the net where I just roofed it on the goalie.”
A couple of minutes later, Rea completed his natural hat trick with a pair of goals just 19 seconds apart, giving the Muskies a 5-0 lead.
“I thought he played really well,” Jourdain said of Rea’s performance.
“He shoots the puck well, and with the type of shot that he has, he’s going to get a lot of goals.”
Despite Scott Parsons allowing a goal by Saints’ forward Colt Manson that cut the lead to four after 20 minutes, the Muskie offence continued its barrage during the second period with markers from Brendan Cawston and Brett McMahon, along with two lightning quick snipes from Rea that gave his team a 9-1 cushion.
“That’s something I practise very hard at and I take a lot of pride in it,” Rea said of his shot.
“It just comes from a lot of puck shooting after games and in the summer, as well,” he noted.
“And as I get older, it seems to be getting a lot faster and a lot stronger.”
Davis, along with both Brett and Brady McMahon, lit the lamp for the Muskies in the third period while Manson netted his second of the afternoon for the Saints to round out the scoring for both teams.
The final score could of been much worse, however, if not for the performance of Ferguson, who used nearly every part of his body to prevent the Muskies from bulging the twine even further during the final minutes.
“When we have our exhibition games, we know that it could be a tough go for our three goaltenders but they are always up for the challenge,” said Batters, who now will prepare his team for regular-season meetings with the Sioux Lookout Warriors along with two tournaments in Minnesota this month.
“All three of our goalies hold us in the game whenever they play, and it’s good practise for them for later in the season,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, with the Muskies set to play a pair of games against both the Red Lake Rams and Kenora Broncos over the next two weeks, the players know they will have a target on their backs heading into the post-season—but feel they are ready for the challenge.
“Everyone’s going to be out to get us since we’re leading the league,” Rea noted.
“We need to be on our game the rest of the way, and we need to play strong hockey and be mentally prepared out there to be able to do that,” he stressed.