The Muskie boys’ hockey team came out a little flat in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Sioux Lookout Warriors in the opener of their best-of-three NorWOSSA final Thursday night at the Ice For Kids Arena–much to the chagrin of head coach Jordan Sinclair.
Cortez Favot scored four times, including the game-winner just under three minutes into overtime, to give the Warriors an early upper-hand in the series.
Sioux Lookout held the lead four separate times in the contest.
“We were down all night, really, playing from behind,” Sinclair noted afterwards.
“We just kept coming, we stuck with it, but to me it wasn’t a lack of effort,” he remarked.
“I liked the fact that we kept battling back but, for me, it was just a lack of execution.
“I don’t have any idea what the shot total ended up to be but I don’t remember them [the Warriors] missing on an opportunity,” Sinclair added.
“Every time they had a chance, it was in our net.
“If we score on half of our opportunities, we could have had eight, 10 [goals],” he noted.
“It’s just frustrating because it’s something that we’ve talked about for four or five months now, and just maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time because you’re winning games and you’re winning games handily,” Sinclair reasoned.
“But execution and bearing down on your opportunity when you score six a night doesn’t seem bad,” he said. “But when you should have scored 12, and you look at it that way, it always comes back to bite you at the worst possible time.
“Sure enough, that was part of the reason why we came out on the wrong end of it tonight,” he conceded.
Favot opened the scoring just 4:40 into the first period when he snapped a shot past Muskie goalie Darian Klem.
Kaleb Bruyere drew the Muskies even when he tipped a Bodnar shot past Warriors’ goalie Jayden Marshall at 15:48.
Brett Martin put Sioux Lookout ahead 2-1 at 6:04 of the second when he floated a seeing-eye shot from the point past Klem before Mikel Ward knotted it at 2-2 with 1:09 left in the frame.
But the Muskies got caught running around their own zone and the Warriors were able to capitalize on a wild goal-mouth scramble in which Favot tucked one over Klem just seven seconds before intermission to put the visitors up 3-2.
Bruyere drew the black-and-gold even yet again 5:02 into the third when he beat Marshall five-hole.
Favot then completed his hat trick at 15:02, dangling around a Muskie defender before walking in and beating Klem with a well-placed shot to give Sioux Lookout another lead at 4-3.
Fort High proved to be resilient once again, however, when Reed Bodnar beautifully-tipped a shot by Bruyere past Marshall to force overtime with 2:02 to go.
But Favot put the game to bed when he skated wide down the right wing, cut towards the Muskie goal, and fired the winner past a dejected Klem just under three minutes into the extra frame.
Marshall earned the win while Klem was tagged with the loss.
Muskie defenceman Jace Jackson had fractured his ankle at practice last Wednesday and needed emergency surgery in Thunder Bay.
The black-and-gold then lost co-captain Byron Stewart to a shoulder injury in the first period of Thursday’s loss.
But the banged-up Muskies soldiered on and were ready to battle Sunday night in Sioux Lookout.
Fort High proved that eliminating it from OFSAA contention would be no easy task for the Warriors as six different players bulged the twine in a bounce-back 6-0 shutout to even the series at a game apiece.
Connor Nelson, Bruyere, Jon Busch, Dayton Labbe, Bodnar, and call-up Matt Spence all tallied to pace the Muskies’ offence and force a third-and-deciding game last night back at the Ice For Kids Arena (the outcome wasn’t known as of press time).
Klem also had a bounce-back performance in earning the shutout.
“Most importantly, we did a much better job taking care of the puck, and certainly did a better job in the ‘D’ zone defending and exiting the zone,” Sinclair noted Monday morning.
“It was a total team effort, really,” he lauded.
“We had all lines contributing, defence pairings doing their job, and ‘Klemmer’ was solid for us again.”
Sinclair also provided an update on the severity of Stewart’s injury.
“Byron will be out for the remainder of the series and is probably a week, minimum, away from returning,” he noted.
But if Sunday was any indication, the black-and-gold still can get by–even without a key player in the lineup.
Sinclair knew just what his short-handed squad would need to do last night in order to come out on top again over the Warriors and book their ticket to the all-Ontarios that run March 19-23 in Collingwood.
“The biggest thing for us is going to be to make sure we are skating, and we are relentless on the puck and on the forecheck,” he stressed.
“We want to make them defend as much as we can and make sure we have the right match-up against their big line, and that we are doing our job and being responsible defensively,” Sinclair added.
“No cheating, no shortcuts, no passengers, and then, finally, just embrace the moment and have fun,” he said.