Not every game is pretty and the start to Friday night’s game certainly wasn’t for the Muskie boys’ hockey team.
The Muskies overcame an early deficit and some shaky play to nab a 5-2 win over the Red Lake Rams in the team’s annual “Teddy Bear Toss” game at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair hopes Friday’s game was a wake-up call for the black-and-gold even though they did manage to improve to a league-best 6-0 in NorWOSSA play.
“I just think it was from a lack of being prepared,” he said of the Muskies’ poor start, who trailed the Rams (2-4) 1-0 in the first period and weren’t able to establish their style of play.
“That falls on everyone, including the coaching staff. Our biggest challenge this year is going to be staying focused for each game.
“We have to recognize that just because we beat a team 6-1 before doesn’t mean we’re gonna do it again,” he stressed, referring to the Muskies’ win over the Rams in their first meeting of the season back on Nov. 16 at the Dryden Eagles’ tournament.
“So, that’s going to be the challenge throughout the year and, again, that falls on the coaching staff in terms of getting the kids prepared and ready to go each and every night.”
In what hasn’t really been the case so far this season, the Muskies were forced to play catchup on Friday night here as Dylan Marino opened the scoring for Red Lake just over nine-and-a-half minutes in the first period as he potted an odd-man rush chance past Muskie goalie Darian Klem.
Sheldon Kelly tied it for Fort High on a power play with 1:32 to go as he sniped one off the crossbar and in to send the teddy bears raining down onto the ice.
“I did think that we did a good job of battling through adversity,” Sinclair lauded.
“It’s really the first time we’ve kinda been down in a game, with the exception of the Thunder Bay Kings’ games. So finding that kind of second gear, self-motivation, to get by and pull through with the win was obviously good to see them battle through adversity. But, like I said, we don’t really wanna be in that position more often than not.”
After a scoreless second period, Muskie captain Reed Bodnar potted his first of the night as he weaved his way around the Rams’ defence and snapped a shot off the crossbar and in over Rams’ goalie Kyle Gelderland just 1:44 into the third.
Battling back, the Rams knotted it at 2-2 when Landon Deschamps jammed home a loose puck underneath a sprawled out Klem with 13:22 to go.
But Bodnar then gave the black-and-gold the lead for good with 6:01 remaining as he fooled Gelderland with a shot from far out that slid through Gelderland’s legs to make it 3-2 with his fourth of the season.
Nolan Mann potted a pass from Bodnar in the slot with 2:33 left in the frame before burying another one in front with less than 30 seconds left to round out the scoring.
“That’s what we needed, obviously, was someone to take charge and get us going, whether it be some sort of energy,” Sinclair said of Bodnar’s third-period goals.
“Not only was Reed’s goal big, I thought there was a couple of big shifts from everyone that kind of started it and then just getting one by their goalie I thought obviously went a long way.
“But I have to give them [the Rams] credit, they played hard,” he stressed.
“Their goalie played a really good game and they did what they had to do to stay in the game and give us a run for our money.”
Sinclair admitted he had some nerves when the score was tied at 2-2 in the third but he was proud of how his players dug deep and pulled out another league win.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” he chuckled.
“Yeah, I was nervous. I thought, you know, things haven’t been going our way tonight, pucks were kind of bouncing and we were gripping the stick a little tight. They kinda got a couple of lucky bounces. In tight games, it’s just a matter of who’s battling harder, who’s gonna work harder, and when the puck isn’t going the way you want it–who’s gonna step up and who’s going to take that leadership and it was nice that we had someone find the back of the net and get us going.”
The Muskies were slated to resume action last night when they hosted the Baudette Bears in exhibition action at the Ice For Kids Arena, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Then they’ll head to Brandon, Man. this weekend for the Tournament of Champions.
Sinclair is hopeful the Muskies will take the lessons learned last week and build off them in this week’s games.
“Tuesday’s gotta be our best game,” he stressed.
“We have to rebound from kind of our effort tonight, it wasn’t the greatest for the whole 60 minutes. We need to have a strong start and focus on getting back to playing our game, which we’re capable of doing.
“That’s going to be the challenge to our team moving forward,” Sinclair predicted.