It wasn’t quite the colour they were hoping for going in, but the Muskie girls’ hockey team certainly isn’t going to say no to a medal at its season-opening tournament.
The black-and-gold earned bronze with a 4-1 defeat of the Dryden Eagles at Ice For Kids Arena on Sunday, toppling the team that finished tops in NorWOSSA last season.
While head coach Mel Langtry was disappointed the squad didn’t make it to the very last game of the tournament, he was encouraged his crew still was able to capture some hardware to commemorate the weekend.
“Too bad we weren’t in the gold-medal game,” he remarked. “We’d have liked to have been there, but I’m still glad we ended up with a medal.
“Third place isn’t bad.
“You always want to go out with a win your last game,” he reasoned.
Fort High opened the scoring very early in the bronze-medal game—capitalizing from a power play called just 12 seconds in.
Shelby Tymkin whacked home the marker at 1:47 after taking a feed from Katie Sinclair.
Ericka Tymkin got in on the action soon after, corralling a centering pass from Alyssa Penner and popping the puck past Dryden goalie Bree Brown at 5:06.
The Muskies had a couple of other chances to boost their lead even more late in the frame, but Shae-Lynn Smith’s backhander went just wide while Jillian Langtry was stymied on an end-to-end rush.
Langtry got her revenge in the second period, though. Smith sprung her on a short-handed breakaway and Langtry had a bit more room to operate, deking Brown to make it 3-0.
The Eagles got on the board 1:07 into the third when Kristen Bartlett beat the Muskie defenders to a dump-in, wrapped around the net, and centered the puck to Halle Lobreau, who wired a shot over goalie Melissa Payne’s right shoulder.
But the Muskies restored their three-goal advantage 9:32 into the third when Danielle Jean, converted from forward to defence this season, pinched in and ripped a shot over Brown’s right shoulder and just under the crossbar.
The sweet snipe sealed the 4-1 win and the bronze medal.
Langtry was thrilled to see the black-and-gold rebound from a rough Saturday in which the team was outscored 10-1 in losses to Dryden and eventual champion Pembina.
Beating the rival Eagles was particularly satisfying after a 6-1 loss less than 24 hours earlier.
“They didn’t need much motivation, I don’t think,” Langtry acknowledged.
“We just couldn’t get the flow going at all yesterday [Saturday],” he noted. “We had two tough games.
“I’m glad we bounced back, and you know, you’re going to have them days,” Langtry added.
“It was only our third and fourth game [of the season].”
Jean’s goal was one of three from the blueline over the weekend. And with former forward Shelby Rea also now patrolling the back end, both have some freedom to jump into the play offensively.
“Her [Jean] and Shelby Rea, we let them loose, let them go,” Langtry noted. “They played awesome.
“Danielle had a beautiful goal,” he lauded.
“We’d sure like to get as many goals as we can from the back end,” the coach added.
“We just let them go if they can, but they’ve still got to be defensive-minded also,” he stressed.
Langtry also was thrilled with the play of each of his forward lines in the bronze-medal game against Dryden.
“I thought [Jessica] Taggart-[Shelby] Tymkin-Sinclair had a lot of energy,” he remarked. “They forechecked really well and got a rebound goal.
“Another line was [Ericka] Tymkin, Alyssa Penner, and Hailey Clendenning—they got a nice goal also.
“Just digging in front of the net and they got a nice goal out of it.
“The [Jillian] Langtry line with Shae-Lynn [Smith] and Taylor Dixon got a nice goal, too, to wrap it up.”
Those combinations were made up somewhat on the fly given the Muskies had entered the weekend with a different mix.
Langtry said he plans to stick with those lines in practice this week leading up to the Sturgeon Heights tournament in Winnipeg, which begins tomorrow (Oct. 28).
The returning goaltending tandem of Dana Cridland and Melissa Payne turned out to be money for the Muskies, with Langtry noting the skaters left their netminders out to dry in Saturday’s two losses.
“They played well all weekend. We didn’t give them that much help in the two losses,” he recalled.
“We can’t blame it on the goaltending at all.
“They came up with two shutouts over the weekend and a one-goal game here [on Sunday],” Langtry added.
“I’m very happy with Dana and Melissa.”
Langtry also said that if he does name a starter, it won’t be for a while as he wants to give both goalies plenty of ice time in the early part of the season.
“We’re going to try to rotate for a while,” he explained. “We’re going to give them both opportunities to step up.
“We want them both to be equal and we want to be able to rely on either one of them at any time.
“It seems like we can. We’re confident with both of them in net,” he enthused.
“We were rotating this weekend, but we thought Melissa did a little better so we thought we’d play her at the end.
“She had a couple really good games.”
Fort High was on the other end of some big performances on Friday, opening the eight-team tournament with a 7-0 win over Queen Victoria (Sioux Lookout).
Sinclair notched a power-play goal in the first before the Muskies broke out in the second.
Dixon and Jean tallied just 10 seconds apart to push the lead to 3-0, with Langtry later netting a pair of short-handed goals 27 seconds apart.
Penner and Smith hit the twine in the third to round out the scoring.
The Muskies then finished the day with a 3-0 win over the Portage Saints.
Dixon’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner while Langtry and Melanie Scott notched third-period insurance.
Saturday, as mentioned, was a tougher day for Fort High.
Dryden got the best of the black-and-gold in their round-robin showdown, goading the Muskies into six penalties en route to the 6-1 win.
Langtry scored late in the first to even the score at 1-1, but Dryden cruised from there.
Then in the semi-finals later Saturday, Fort High dropped a 4-0 decision to Pembina, who went three-for-five on the power play.
The Tigers notched two in the first period and two more in the third to advance to the final, which they won 4-1 over St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora).
Overall, Langtry said the Muskies learned plenty of lessons, especially in the two losses.
The starkest contrast, in particular, was in the two games against the Eagles. Dryden had coaxed Fort High into a number of penalties in the round-robin that the Muskies didn’t fall for in Sunday’s bronze-medal game.
“We took lots of penalties in yesterday’s [Saturday’s] game,” noted Langtry. “We’ve got to be a lot more disciplined.
“I thought we were more disciplined today [Sunday].
“They are an aggressive team, but what we were doing last time is we were retaliating,” he continued.
“This time we weren’t. We were a lot more disciplined and we only had one retaliating penalty.
“But other than that, I thought we kept our cool.”
The Muskies will be back in action this weekend as they attend the Sturgeon Heights tournament in Winnipeg.
The black-and-gold will be tested as they’re scheduled to play three city teams—John Taylor, host Sturgeon Heights, and Balmoral Hall—in the round-robin portion.