Muskie boys record four shutouts in weekend tourney

Four games. Four wins. Four shutouts.
Not a bad weekend for the Muskie boys’ soccer team as they breezed through an exhibition tournament here last weekend–outscoring their opponents by a 13-0 margin and dominating large stretches of their games.
In fact, the Muskies barely allowed what could be termed as a reasonable scoring chance. They used a well-balanced attack up front, controlling the ball fluently around the opposition’s goal, while being flawless clearing it out of their own end on defence.
Muskie head coach Keith Gilbert obviously was impressed with his team’s performance.
“I think we’re real pleased with what we’ve seen, they’ve been real disciplined,” he noted. “I haven’t seen [one of our teams] play like that in a few years.
“We don’t have the size, and we’re not strong like teams like Beaver Brae, but we have the skill,” he added.
That skill was evident right from the outset Friday when the Muskies blanked Rainy River and Thomas Aquinas (Kenora) by identical 4-0 scores.
“We’ve tried to get them to be innovative and try things like back passes, and then try to incorporate those plays as a team,” said Gilbert.
The vast improvement of Terry LaBelle, Adam McTavish, and Jeff Savage up front has made a huge impact on Fort High’s offensive attack. Combined with striker Steve Keesic, the Muskies boast a quick–and talented–quartet of forwards.
“It’s really nice to see those guys improve so much. They’re light years ahead of where they were last year,” said Gilbert. “They are really starting to play well.”
Savage scored three times in those first two wins while McTavish and LaBelle added singles. Josiah Morris and Jamie Algie also scored (the fourth scorer in the Thomas Aquinas game was not known).
Then it was the Muskie defence that played particularly well in their final two games of the tournament Saturday–a 2-0 win over Beaver Brae and then a 3-0 victory against Sioux Lookout.
Lloyd and Keesic scored in the Beaver Brae win while McTavish (two) and Algie found the mark against the Warriors.
Still, even though the Muskies have scored their share of goals so far this season, Gilbert is still concerned with his team’s lack of finish around the net, saying “too many chances aren’t being capitalized on.”
He stressed they definitely can’t “squander” those type of quality chances in close games. If they do, he said, they simply won’t win.
“We have to have more success on some scoring plays. There were opportunities where we had chances for sure goals, like penalty kicks, and we missed them,” he recalled.
“We still have to put the ball in the net.”
On the other hand, keeping up their airtight defence certainly won’t hurt the cause. Colin Wielinga, Jon Lloyd, and rookie Jamie Algie have been tremendous defence thus far. The key, however, may be Algie’s presence in the stopper position.
On a team with limited size, Algie brings a physical style of play in the middle which seems to have gelled the Muskies’ defensive unit.
“We’ve stressed defence a bit more and we’ve talked to other guys and said ‘I can’t remember when we felt so comfortable back there and had a shutout tournament,’” said Gilbert.
“It’s a credit to everyone.”
But Gilbert also said he hopes his team doesn’t get caught up with their recent success. The toughest part of the season is still ahead when they travel to Kenora for a second exhibition tournament this weekend.
Then they host the NorWOSSA playoffs here May 19-20.
“My number-one concern is too not get complacent,” warned Gilbert. “The key is to stay focused and remind ourselves we have the skill.
“We had a really good tournament and there’s not too much room to improve on that but there is lots of room to fall,” he noted.