Head coach Jordan Sinclair wasn’t all that pleased with how the Muskie boys’ hockey team played in its 4-1 victory over the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints in Game 1 of their best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-final last Wednesday night at “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena).
Although the black-and-gold did pick up their play in the third period, getting goals from Jon Busch (power play) and Kendyn Faragher to seal the win, the first 40 minutes left him desiring a more complete effort.
“After we scored [early in the first period], we were kinda just ‘blah’ really all night,” Sinclair said after the game.
“We had the puck for a lot of time and a lot of zone-time, but we weren’t really doing a lot with it.
“We weren’t as dangerous as I’d like us to be,” he added.
“And then once they scored [in the second period], all of a sudden they’re right back in the game.”
Jake Barker opened the scoring for the Muskies just 1:28 into the game when he collected a rebound from a Jace Dittaro shot and put it past Saints’ goalie Mason Vogrig.
Cole Magill then tallied 3:14 into the second but the Saints got their lone goal with 7:05 left in the frame to trim the lead to 2-1.
Darian Klem earned the win while Vogrig was tagged with the loss.
Friday afternoon’s outcome in Game 2 in Kenora, however, had Sinclair singing a much different tune.
Five different Muskies scored en route to a 5-0 victory over the Saints to sweep the series 2-0 and advance to the NorWOSSA final.
Magill, Cole Allan, Kaleb Bruyere, Eric Pitkanen, and Faragher all bulged the twine to pace the attack.
Klem earned the shutout.
“Definitely, no question, I thought we were miles better in Game 2 than Game 1,” Sinclair noted Monday morning.
“It wasn’t even close.
“It really was a team effort from start to finish, with a number of different goal scorers and contributors,” he lauded.
“I thought the line of Jon Busch, Cole Allan, and Eric Pitkanen [the Muskies’ veteran top line] were a real handful the entire afternoon.”
The top-ranked Muskies now will face the third-place Sioux Lookout Warriors in the best-of-three final that’s set to begin tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Fort High took all three meetings against the Warriors during the regular season.
If it wasn’t for the standout play of Grade 9 goalie Klem, the black-and-gold definitely would not have enjoyed the success they’ve had so far this season.
“‘Klemmer’ has really been a rock for us all season,” Sinclair stressed.
“When you think about and consider how important a goaltender is, and the workload he has taken on in playing every game since November, it really is impressive,” he noted.
“I would guess it’s probably never been done before in Muskie history.”
The opportunity now presents itself for Fort High to advance to the all-Ontarios that run March 19-23 in Collingwood.
But first, the black-and-gold have to take care of business against Sioux Lookout.
“Well, we know that they have good goalie and a couple of forwards that do a good majority of their scoring,” Sinclair said about the Warriors.
“So we need to make sure that we are making guaranteed plays and taking care of the puck, and not allowing them free opportunities off of our turnovers.”
Game 2 is set for Sunday at 7:15 p.m. in Sioux Lookout.
If necessary, Game 3 will be played back here but a date, time, and venue was not confirmed as of press time.