You could say the confidence level is at an all-time high for the Muskie boys’ hockey team right now.
An 11-1 rout of the visiting Dryden Eagles last Tuesday night saw the Muskies’ record improve to a league-best 4-0 in NorWOSSA play and the squad appears to be firing on all cylinders.
The Muskies now are just trying to be wary of getting too overconfident and complacent as the they move forward this season, which would be easy for any team to do when they’re feeling invincible.
“I think our biggest challenge is going to be staying motivated and battling each other in practice and getting up for games,” said Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair after last Tuesday’s win at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“Now that we’ve seen every team, we’ve played against every one except Sioux Lookout. We know what each team has, we know where we stand.
“We know that we’re capable of beating each team,” he reasoned. “So it’s just a matter of bringing that energy and intensity and playing our game each and every night, regardless of our opponent.”
The black-and-gold were slated to resume NorWOSSA action last night when they welcomed the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) to IFK, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Then they’ll cap the week by hosting the Red Lake Rams on Friday at 7:15 p.m. at IFK.
Fort High also was supposed to play an exhibition game against the Baudette Bears tomorrow night at the Emo-La Vallee Arena, but Sinclair noted that it has been rescheduled for next Tuesday (Dec. 3) at 7:15 p.m. at IFK.
The Muskies will have already played half of their 12-game NorWOSSA season schedule following this week as the format for the league changed this season from the 15-game schedule of past years.
Sinclair conceded that it “wasn’t ideal” to have already played that many league games by the end of November and to lose out on a few home contests.
“It was more so just a way that they’re looking to save money with all sports,” Sinclair said of the NorWOSSA hockey league format change.
“The court sports are now after school, so they saved supply teaching costs. Boys’ and girls’ [hockey] are playing together which essentially saves on travel costs and cutting down the [number of] games was just essentially just a lot of costs.
“So, that’s kind of the difference in the structures,” he continued.
“Each team goes to each place once and then we have two tournament games which are played as league games as well, where us, we played our two league games in the Dryden tournament on the first day. Essentially it was just ways to save money on athletics from the school boards, something that was decided with the athletic directors.”
Muskies pluck Eagles’ wings
Continuing their torrid to start the NorWOSSA season, the Muskies took a strip out of the Eagles last Tuesday here to nab their fourth win of the year.
Peyton Avis netted a hat trick while Nolan Mann, Josh Ward, and Brady Bodnarchuk each tallied twice to pace the onslaught.
Sheldon Kelly and Jace Dittaro also lit the lamp for Fort High.
Mann, Ward, Avis (two), and Kelly all bulged the twine in the first period on Eagles’ goalie Aidan Butts to help the Muskies jump out to a 5-0 lead after 20 minutes.
“I liked our first period for sure, I thought we got off to a really good start and we kept it up for the 20 minutes,” said Sinclair after the game.
“We put pressure on them throughout ice, we were really good in our zone getting the pucks out, keeping the time of attack in the offensive zone, which is always going to help us.
“I thought towards the end of the game we kind of got away from it, but that just tends to happen in those kind of games,” he reasoned.
“But that’s what we gotta work on is keeping our composure and sticking to our game for a whole 60 minutes, regardless of what the scoreboard says.”
Avis completed his hat trick on a power play near the 10-minute mark of the second to put the black-and-gold up by six.
Dittaro and Ward then capitalized later in the frame to make it an eight-goal cushion after 40 minutes.
Bodnarchuk scored both of his goals within a two-minute span in the third before Calix Kalka broke Darian Klem’s shutout bid with 9:26 left to trim it to 10-1.
Mann then skated around the Dryden defence and fired a low shot home to cap the scoring with 2:41 remaining.
“It’s always a confidence booster for the guys,” Sinclair said of getting the win in the home-opener.
“We’re always excited, there’s nerves, it’s the first big game. So yeah, coming out on top is obviously a bonus for us.
“We get good crowds,” he lauded. “And the way you’re going to keep them is if you’re playing good hockey and winning games and that’s what we’ve been doing so far this season.”