Muskie boys place fifth in Brandon

Jamie Mountain

They may have had their medal hopes dashed but the members of the Muskie boys’ hockey team fought valiantly until the end.
The Muskies compiled a 4-1 record en route to a fifth-place finish at the annual Victoria Inns tournament in Brandon, Man. over the weekend.
“Overall, I thought we played pretty well for the most part of the weekend,” said Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair.
“Going 4-1 over the weekend, we are obviously very pleased with our performance.”
Fort High opened play on Friday afternoon with a 7-2 romp over the Neepawa Tigers.
Reed Bodnar netted a hat trick while Jacob Albright, Mikel Ward, Ashton Cousineau, and Connor Nelson also lit the lamp to pace the offence.
Jaden Cooper earned the win between the pipes.
Nolan Mann then netted the overtime winner to lift the Muskies to a 3-2 win over the Morden Thunder that evening.
Ward and Bodnar potted the other goals for the Muskies while Darian Klem nabbed the win goal.
“Our first game against Neepawa we played very well,” Sinclair enthused.
“We came out ready to go, scoring on our first shift and didn’t let up. We were up 4-1 by the end of the first period and controlled the play throughout the game.
“Our next game was against Morden, which was our biggest test of the year so far,” he noted.
“They were a team similar to Baudette–had speed and skill and worked hard. Our biggest problem this game was discipline as we took too many penalties, allowing them to stay in the game.
“They tied it late in the game to send the game into overtime,” Sinclair recalled.
“In the overtime, we controlled the puck by being patient and not forcing passes or throwing the puck away. We ended up scoring with a couple minutes left in overtime to send us to the top bracket of the tournament.”
The Muskies had set a goal heading into the weekend to finish with a medal, which unfortunately fell by the wayside with a 6-3 loss to the Garden City Fighting Gophers in the quarterfinals of the top bracket on Saturday afternoon.
Brady Bodnarchuk, Peyton Avis, and Ward all lit the lamp in that one while Cooper suffered the loss in goal.
“Our quarterfinal game was against Garden City, who ended up winning the tournament,” Sinclair noted.
“We lost 6-3 with an empty net, but was a game of two very evenly matched teams. They are one of the top-ranked teams in Manitoba and it showed, as they played a fast-paced game with skill and depth.
“I thought this was one of our better games of the tournament and it was just a game of bad breaks for us,” he reasoned.
“We had lots of opportunities to score to tie it up but every time we came close, it seemed they got a lucky break and had a scoring chance of their own.”
The loss dropped the Muskies into the consolation side of the top bracket, where they rebounded with a big 7-3 win over the Virden Bears on Saturday evening.
Avis, Mikel Ward (two), Albright, Kaden Kocuiba, Josh Ward, and Cousineau all tallied in that one.
Klem garnered the win between the pipes.
That win put the Muskies into the consolation final on Sunday afternoon against the Westwood Warriors, where they prevailed by a 4-2 count.
Jace Jackson scored twice while Brandon Croswell and Jaxon Gartzke also got on the board for Fort High. Cooper earned the win in goal.
“I don’t think either of these two games were our best, as it seemed that the loss to Garden City kind of deflated us,” Sinclair admitted.
“Nonetheless, we were able to prevail and come out on top both games, which was good to see the team battle right to the end of the tournament, despite not being where we wanted to be.
“The coaching staff was very pleased at our performance throughout the weekend,” he added.
“Coming home with fifth place with a 4-1 record against most of the top teams in Manitoba is an accomplishment in itself. Having said that, it was too bad that we met Garden City in the quarterfinals as we would have liked to meet them in the finals.”
The black-and-gold, who currently sport a perfect 6-0 record in NorWOSSA play, were slated to resume league action tonight against the host Red Lake Rams (2-4) but it has been postponed due to another one-day OSSTF strike.
The Muskies’ next action will come this weekend when they play another three-game exhibition series against the Thunder Bay Midget ‘AAA’ Kings at the Fort William First Nation Arena.
Games 1 and 2 will go on Saturday with the finale to follow on Sunday morning.
“I think we are a much different team from when we played them at the beginning of our season,” said Sinclair.
“I thought we matched up well against them and those were our first games. I’m excited to see how we fare now that we’ve had some practice and games under our belt.
“We have set a team goal to win our series against the Kings, so that means we are going to Thunder Bay with the hopes of beating them all three games,” he stressed.
“I expect to see three hard-nosed games. I think last time we played, they were all very good, fast-paced games. I expect to see the same this time around, only this time us coming out on top.”