Although they would have liked to score more goals, it was still an impressive weekend overall for the Muskie boys’ hockey team.
The black-and-gold compiled a perfect 4-0 record at the annual Scott Clendenning Memorial Showcase held here Friday through Sunday, showing the talent that has made them the top team in NorWOSSA play thus far.
“I thought we played really well, I thought we got better as the weekend progressed,” Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair said of his team’s performance at the “Showcase.”
“That’s typically not what you’d see, just with fatigue and everything like that, so yeah, it was good that we could play at that pace for the four games. If we do happen to make it to OFSAA, that’s the [same] format that we’re gonna see and we need to play at that level consistently.”
The Muskies opened play at the “Showcase” on Friday morning with a 3-1 win over the Dryden Eagles at Ice For Kids Arena before then downing the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) by the same score that afternoon at “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena).
Jacob Albright scored twice while Josh Ward also bugled the twine in the win over the Eagles while affiliate player Landon Lowes, Nolan Mann and Peyton Avis supplied the goals against the Saints.
The Muskies then dumped the Red Lake Rams 6-1 on Saturday morning, with Albright, Avis and Kaden Kocuiba all scoring two goals apiece.
Fort High then wrapped things up routing the Kenora Broncos 10-1 in the “Showcase” finale that evening.
Mikel Ward, Reed Bodnar and affiliate player Noah McPherson all scored twice while the Muskies also got singles from affiliate Dylan Tessier, Lowes, Kocuiba and Avis.
“I liked how we played, I thought we moved the puck well,” Sinclair lauded.
“I think just the one area we need to focus on is putting the puck in the net. With the exception of the 10 [goals] against Kenora here, I thought we could have buried teams a little more. As of late we’ve struggled, we get lots of shots but we can’t seem to get them past their goalies,” he conceded.
“Not taking anything away from our opponents’ goalies, they’ve all been playing really well, but we need to find that extra little desire to put teams away and not allow them to hang into games. Putting up 10 boosts the confidence and it kinda gives us that little motivation.”
Sinclair also lauded the play of the Muskie goalies, Darian Klem and Jaden Cooper, who were pillars between the pipes at the “Showcase” and have been stalwarts all season.
“Throughout the year they’ve both been playing really well,” he enthused.
“We’re very confident in both Jaden and Darian, which is awesome to have as a coach, as a team, to have two reliable goalies that we can trust and put either of them in the net, they’re going to give us a chance to win each and every night. That’s huge for us.”
Fort High had gone into the “Showcase” fresh off a 2-1 loss to the Saints in Kenora in NorWOSSA action on Thursday.
It was the first loss of the season for the Muskies, who saw their record fall to 10-1.
Nolan Mann scored the squad’s lone goal in the third period with Muskie captain Reed Bodnar drawing the lone assist on the play.
The Muskies were slated to conclude the NorWOSSA regular season in Dryden last night against the third-place Eagles (8-3), with the outcome not known as of press time.
A win clinches a first-place finish, where the Muskies would face the fourth-place Red Lake Rams (4-7-0-1) in the upcoming best-of-three NorWOSSA semifinals.
The Saints sat in second place with a 9-2 record heading into their game last night against the Sioux Lookout Warriors (2-8).
“We played them our first game here this weekend and they played us hard,” Sinclair said of the Eagles.
“We ended up winning 3-1 but it was a good test for us and that’s kind of what we’re gonna expect on Tuesday. That’s a team that we might end up playing in the final round of NorWOSSA, so we need to go in there just with confidence but [also] not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
“And we need to stay healthy, that’s gonna be the biggest thing,” he stressed.