The Muskie boys’ hockey team has blazed out of the gates to start the NorWOSSA season, compiling a 3-0 record while outscoring their opponents 20-2.
But the black-and-gold aren’t completely satisfied with their play, and are looking to shore up a couple of key areas as the season progresses.
Discipline is an issue at this point as Fort High occasionally fell into a retaliation trap, especially during Friday night’s 4-1 win over visiting Kenora.
The Muskies took nine penalties overall—about double what the Broncos were whistled for.
Captain Brendan Cawston noted the team has gotten a better handle on their tempers as the season has gone on, but there’s still some work to be done.
“We’re getting a lot better at it but we’ve still gotta get that under control,” Cawston stressed.
“Just skating away after whistles, not yapping at them after the whistle, things like that,” he noted.
Another focus of improvement is going to be the breakout given both the Broncos and Dryden Eagles have, at times, been able to keep the Muskies hemmed in their own zone early in the season.
Cawston and forward Robbie Rea both noted when Fort High’s attack gets past its own blueline, it has the potential to take over games.
“We’re having trouble getting out of our own end,” Rea admitted. “We just have to be a little bit more patient getting out and moving the puck.
“Once everything comes together, we should be able to move the puck pretty quick and get up to that high tempo,” he reasoned.
“Once we get it out of our own end, there’s no team as good as us,” agreed Cawston.
On the other hand, one reason the Muskies may be struggling to get the puck out is they haven’t had loads of practice in a game situation.
Assistant coach Brad Gushulak noted that since Fort High has controlled the play in their opponents’ end, goalies Devin Stromness and Scott Parsons occasionally have been left twiddling their thumbs in net.
“It’s tough for them [the goalies], sometimes, being back there and not getting as many shots as they might like,” Gushulak remarked.
“But it’s definitely nice for us to keep the puck out of our end.”
Gushulak also underscored the importance of addressing any trouble spots early on.
“We’re just trying to correct the little things out there,” he explained. “Every game, we have been playing pretty good, but there still is room for improvement out there.”
This past Friday, the Muskies were getting their third crack at Kenora already this season—and the outcome was familiar to 4-1 and 4-2 victories the black-and-gold had earned over the Broncos at earlier tournaments.
After toying with Kenora in the opening minutes, pinning the visitors in their own end, Fort High (3-0 in NorWOSSA play) got on the board at 9:42 when Tarryn Romyn snapped one past Broncos’ goalie Bradin Seniw.
The goal seemed to perk up the Broncos, however, as they were able to penetrate the Muskie zone. But Jeff Davis’ slapper from the slot at 10:56 went through Seniw’s five-hole and put Fort High up 2-0.
The Muskies then made it 3-0 at 5:34 of the second period when Rea unleashed a rocket past Seniw.
The Broncos finally found the scoresheet 2:24 later when Brandon Pentek converted on a scramble in front of the Muskie net, knocking a shot past Stromness.
But the black-and-gold restored their three-goal advantage at 9:55 when Chris Bobczynski got sprung on a breakaway, ripping a shot off the crossbar and in.
The goal was a bit of redemption for Bobczynski, who had been foiled on a couple of close scoring chances previously.
Fort High had opened its home schedule last Tuesday (Dec. 7) with an 11-1 trouncing of Dryden.
Rea and Cawston each scored twice in that one while Nick Jourdain, Colton Spicer, Tyler Mosbeck, Davis, Bobczynski, Romyn, and Tyson McLean added singles.
Dryden’s Corbin Gervasi spoiled the shutout bid midway through the third.
The black-and-gold were back in Kenora last night for a rematch (the score was not available by press time), then they will wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule with an exhibition game versus Kittson Central here this Saturday (Dec. 18) at 1:15 p.m.
Gushulak is hoping to see the Muskie keep their foot on the gas despite the fairly wide margin between them and the rest of NorWOSSA at this point.
“That’s the biggest thing, just trying to keep it up and making sure we go every game,” he stressed.
“We need to be coming out flying right away, and keep improving looking towards playoffs and looking towards, hopefully, OFSAA,” Gushulak added.
He pointed to an upcoming tournament in Duluth, scheduled for Dec. 27-29, as a measuring stick event.
Cawston admitted staying focused on the task at hand could be somewhat difficult during the dead of winter, but noted playing against strong challengers should provide a needed jolt.
“There’s always going to be better teams out there that we’ll be playing, so if we can play at that level that we can play, the entire team, we’ll be fine,” he reasoned.
“[Staying focused] could be difficult, but when you get to the rink, you’ve got to think about hockey all the time.”
Cawston also credited the Muskies’ string of early-season tournaments, where they notched two gold medals and a pair of bronze, to help mould the team.
“What helped us is we were all together,” he remarked. “In the hotel rooms, we were all together in there bonding.
“We got to know each other and everyone’s good friends now. I think that’s helped us out.”
However, even as a veteran Muskie, Cawston acknowledged feeling some butterflies prior to their home-opener last week.
“We were all pretty excited to get back and play,” he recalled. “I think there were some nerves. I know I had some.
“It’s my third year playing, but just playing at home the first time—it’s a good feeling.”