Muskie girls called out to boost effort

Dan Falloon

The Muskie girls’ hockey team has seen its share of struggles to start the NorWOSSA season.
A fair portion of the tough times can be attributed to a short bench hit by the injury bug, but head coach Mel Langtry also isn’t satisfied with the effort he’s getting from the players who are on hand.
That was on display last Tuesday night (Nov. 23) as the black-and-gold fell to 1-3 in league play with a 3-2 loss to visiting Dryden.
“They were just keeping us away from that rebound and we weren’t fighting through it,” Langtry said of the team’s effort in the Eagles’ zone.
“We have to,” he stressed.
“We might be getting the first shot, but we’re not there to get that second one that we need,” Langtry noted.
Fort High had a couple of chances to open the scoring in the first period. Jillian Langtry was sprung on a breakaway about six minutes in but Eagles’ goalie Bree Brown stayed with the shifty forward the whole way to make the save.
Brown later knocked away Jessica Taggart’s slapshot to the top corner.
Dryden opened the scoring just over two minutes into the second when Brittany Ramsay fired a shot that Muskie goalie Melissa Payne couldn’t handle.
Fort High tried to respond quickly, but Brown stonewalled Katie Sinclair’s point-blank chance off a rebound.
After a failed five-on-three advantage, the Muskies drew even when Taylor Dixon took a centering pass from Shae-lynn Smith and wired home a wrister at 12:22.
The tie was short-lived, however, as the Eagles regained the lead just 19 seconds later when Morgan Church was allowed to get in front and backhand a shot into the net.
Fort High pressed late in the frame to knot the game, generating several chances in the slot, but either were shut down by Brown, tied up by a defender, or the shots ended up chipped over the net.
Church struck again at 5:15 of the third, chipping in Kristen Bartlett’s centering pass.
Payne had made a quick pad save to rob Bartlett earlier in the sequence.
The Muskies were able to get back within one 2:17 later when Shelby Rea shot a low wrister to Brown’s glove side that found twine, but that was as close as Fort High could get.
Coach Langtry felt the Eagles had too easy of a time in the Muskies’ zone, picking up the puck and, on some occasions, getting into the slot far too easily.
“What I thought they were doing is beating us to almost every puck in our end, and they were winning the majority of the battles,” he observed.
“We weren’t hard enough on the sticks,” he recalled. “They can’t walk out of the corner like on that second goal, walk in, untouched, and backhand it in.”
Langtry did say Payne didn’t seem rattled by allowing the opening goal, responding with a few nice saves.
“I didn’t think it distracted her too much,” he remarked. “She came back.
“The goals were in tight and they were garbage goals, sneaking through,” he explained. “That’s what happens when they throw a lot of traffic in front of the net, there’s other things that distract people.”
Dryden’s willingness to get to the net is exactly what’s missing from Fort High’s offensive game, Langtry added.
“That’s what we’re not doing,” he noted. “We’re getting the shot, but we’re not getting in there to move the defence or get a bunch of feet and sticks in there.
“Every goal can’t be beautiful,” he reasoned. “We had a really nice one goal there, that three-way passing play I thought was really nice, but we have to get those goals that they’re getting.
“That takes a lot of heart and some of these girls, it looks like they’re not playing with their heart yet,” he admitted.
That kind of play could have come in handy when the Muskies had a power play, and the most glaring trouble spot was on the weak five-on-three.
“I thought we should’ve capitalized on our five-on-three, and there were a couple power plays where we didn’t get any pressure whatsoever,” noted Langtry.
“It’s something we have to work on,” he vowed. “We don’t get many five-on-threes in this game.”
The Muskie girls are back in action this Friday (Dec. 3) when the Kenora Broncos visit the Ice For Kids Arena.
The Broncos won the first meeting 3-1 in Kenora last month, and Langtry has identified a few areas where Fort High must improve prior to the rematch.
“What I think we have to work on is just the battles,” he stressed. “The one-on-one battles, coming out of the corner and positioning for defence, and just to throw it to the simple areas instead of trying to make that fancy pass up the centre.
“We’ll work on just a little bit of battling and a little bit of stamina, too,” he added.
Meanwhile, Langtry is keeping his fingers crossed that Alyssa Penner and Sydney Jones, both of whom missed last Tuesday’s game against Dryden, will return for the one with Kenora.
If so, it’ll be the first time all year that the black-and-gold ice their full 17-player roster.
Langtry said that to not have played as a full unit more than a month into the season is an anomaly, noting the smaller roster has tended to work just fine in past years.
“Three lines have been going the last three years, and that usually works pretty well for us,” he reasoned.
“When we get into situations like this, this is really odd that we haven’t had a full roster year.”
Langtry explained the Muskies don’t feature a full roster so they don’t leave the local girls’ hockey league shorthanded, especially since the couple of extra players wouldn’t get the ice time necessary to develop.
“To take a whole line away from the other league is something we’re not ready to do right now,” he remarked. “We want them to develop down in the other leagues.
“They’re playing two teams down there, so we’d rather see them than sitting on the bench.
“Right now, it would help us to have a few more people, but we can’t go back on what’s already been done,” he said.
In related news, the squad will hold its annual “Teddy Bear Toss” during Friday night’s game against Kenora, where fans are encouraged to throw a stuffed toy onto the ice when the Muskies notch their first goal.
All toys then will be donated to the local Salvation Army for its Christmas hamper program.