Muskie boys’ hockey

After a fourth-place finish during the regular season, and then an early playoff exit, the Muskie boys’ hockey team is ready to hit the ice with their sights set on making their 25th appearance at the all-Ontario championship.
A fresh start means renewed hope in the Muskies’ camp, and head coach Glen Edwards isn’t settling for anything less than reaching the summit once again.
“The goal is the same as always,” said Edwards, who will enter his 23rd year behind the Muskies’ bench this season. “We want to win NorWOSSA and go on to the all-Ontario championship.
“The reality is we’ve got a good chance to do that.”
Quite a turnaround for a team that went 4-10-2 in NorWOSSA play last season, then was swept 2-0 by the Dryden Eagles in the league semi-finals.
And Edwards’ lofty expectations aren’t diminished by the fact this year’s squad lost more than half of its roster from last season, with 13 out of 24 players donning the black-and-gold for the first time.
“The kids coming in have played together at the Bantam level,” said Edwards. “Like our returnees from last year, they’ve shown a willingness to work hard in practice.
“All of the newcomers can play the game,” he added. “They make us a well-balanced team that can really take a run at the championship.”
Edwards will turn to veteran blueliners David Pollard and Kris Esselink to stabilize the defensive corps, while forwards like Eric Mosbeck, Terry Kellar, and Nathan Miller will be relied on to provide leadership and some punch on offence.
“We’re blessed with a lot of balance on offence,” said Edwards. “I don’t think I’ve got a No. 1 line right now. I put four lines together at the end of training camp in August, but it’s too early to assign roles.
“The next three weeks will say a lot about the team.”
One of those lines will feature a trio of new blood, with Atikokan native Steven Sus between fellow Grade 10 forward Justin Larson and Grade 11 winger Mike Niskala.
“All three of them work very hard and are strong on their skates,” said Edwards. “They play good defence and forecheck really well.”
Guarding the Muskie cage will be last year’s starter, Matt Gamsby, with first-year back-up Jason Green also expected to play an important role.
“We’ll start out splitting the goaltending duties,” said Edwards, who named Green as his starter for Friday night’s regular-season opener here against NorWOSSA newcomer Pelican Falls First Nations High School near Sioux Lookout.
“Matt played well last year, and held us in a lot of games, but Jason’s done well in practice,” Edwards noted.
Gamsby, who will be in Dryden on Friday for the NorWOSSA playoffs with the Muskie senior boys’ volleyball team but may be back in time to dress as the backup, will get the start Saturday in the rematch with Pelican Falls.
With more than two decades of shepherding the Muskies under his belt, the thought of the first puck drop of the season still gets Edwards’ blood tingling.
“This is always a good time of the year,” he remarked. “You’re unsure about the unknown but you’re always confident about your team.”
Friday’s game goes at 7:30 p.m. while Saturday’s contest begins at 12:30 p.m., both at the Ice for Kids Arena.