Muskie girls clinch top spot

Jessica Barker’s smile said it all: a NorWOSSA title, an 18th birthday, and delicious cupcakes for all.
As the saying goes, “Life don’t get no better than that!”
For the veteran defender, in her fourth season with the team, winning that first regular-season crown was about the best birthday gift she could receive.
Barker, along with defensive partner Haven Labbe, was rock solid on the point—helping the Muskie girls stymie the usually-potent Dryden Eagles’ offence in a 4-0 victory here Tuesday night.
As the top seed in the NorWOSSA ‘AA’ playoffs, the Muskies will host the winner of the NorWOSSA ‘A’ championship series between the Sioux Lookout Warriors and Thomas Aquinas Saints.
Game 1 of that semi-final showdown goes Friday, Feb. 22nd at 5 p.m. in the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Dryden and Kenora will square off in the other semi-final.
Despite having lost 6-4 to the Eagles in Dryden the previous Thursday night, the Muskies looked anything but fearful of another loss as they carried the play for much of the first period.
Second-year winger Kristen Penner opened the scoring with 7:31 left in the first period, with a helping hand from linemates Lindsey Roehrig and Nina Bird.
The tenacious Roehrig forced a turnover in the Dryden zone, moving the puck to the end boards, where the veteran Bird coolly dished a quick pass out front to Penner, who went top corner glove side for a 1-0 lead.
Despite a Dryden resurgence in the latter stages of the first period, Muskie goalie Katie Stearns made several crucial saves to maintain the narrow lead.
Three-consecutive minor penalties in the second period put the Eagles on their heels—and the Muskies capitalized on a two-man advantage with Lauren Krukoski scoring to build a 2-0 lead at 10:13.
Penner, who was shifted to centre on the power play, won a face-off to Bird, who rifled a quick shot at Dryden goalie Kelsey Fuerst.
Fuerst made the initial stop, but the sure-handed Krukoski pounced on the rebound and lifted a backhander high to the blocker side.
Although the score sheet was clean for the rest of the period, the final few minutes were not without drama as Dryden veteran Sarah Carter was whistled for interfering with Penner on a breakaway and referee Lorne Ricard awarded the Muskies’ leading scorer a penalty shot.
Penner shot but Fuerst made the save, and the second period closed with the Muskies up 2-0.
The third period unfolded much like the second with 10 minutes of furious action before the first goal.
Grade 10 wingers Carlee Bosma and Anikka McTavish, centered by Krukoski, were creating havoc in the Dryden zone when Krukoski—who had an outstanding game at both ends of the ice—forced a Dryden turnover just inside the offensive blueline.
Bosma gathered up the puck, skated to the left side of the slot, and wired a hard wrist shot just inside the post on Fuerst’s trapper side for a 3-0 Muskie lead.
The hard Muskie forecheck paid off again with just under five minutes to play as the line of Taylor Meyers, Kailey Curtis (back in the lineup after missing the previous game with an injury), and Miranda Kellar combined for the final goal.
The Meyers’ crew simply outworked the Eagles in their own zone, with Kellar flipping a backhand shot to the net, Curtis taking a poke at it, and then Meyers finally slapping it in to ice the victory.
Now sporting a 7-3-0-1 NorWOSSA record for 15 points, the Muskies take to the road tomorrow as they play their final league game at 5 p.m. against the Kenora Broncos.
The Broncos currently sit with a 5-5-0-1 record while the Eagles are finished at 5-6-0-1.
While it’s not official, it appears the Broncos already have clinched second place and home-ice advantage in their semi-final with Dryden.
Although the two teams split their six-game series, each claiming six points against the other, the Broncos also earned a single point in an overtime loss to the Eagles—giving them the tie-breaker.
< *c>Muskie boys win
While the girls’ race was tight till the end, there was no doubt who would finish first among the four NorWOSSA ‘AA’ boys’ squads.
In a dominating performance Tuesday night in Kenora, the Muskies killed off 10 minor penalties in a 5-1 win.
The black-and-gold blew the game wide open in the first period with three unanswered goals. The line of Taylor Jorgenson, Zach McCool, and Kevin Bobczynski was again explosive—teaming up for three goals and an assist.
Jorgenson opened the scoring just 11 seconds into the first frame off a set-up by assistant captain Mike McCaig.
Bobczynski netted the second goal, unassisted, with 6:50 left in the first before defenceman Cody McCool made it 3-0 with an unassisted tally at the 5:40 mark.
Kenora’s Kenton Ammerman, assisted by Jed Burgelis, scored the Broncos’ lone goal two minutes before the first intermission.
The Muskies wrapped up the scoring with a second-period goal by Zach McCool (from Bobczynski) and a third-period unassisted marker from rugged winger Matt Hebert to make the final score 5-1.
Fort High, who sit in first place with an 11-1 record, now will host the fourth-place Red Lake Rams in the best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-finals.
The opener goes next Friday (Feb. 22) around 4 p.m. in the Ice for Kids Arena, with Game 2 slated for Sunday, Feb. 24 up in Red Lake.
The third game, if necessary, will be back here on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
The other semi-final series will pit the second-place Eagles against the third-place Broncos, with the best-of-three NorWOSSA final getting underway Friday, Feb. 29.

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