Muskie girls finally snap losing skid

On Feb. 19, 2002, Kristin Roehrig never would have guessed that she had just seen her team record its last NorWOSSA point for some time to come.
On Friday night, the captain of the Muskie girls’ hockey team finally got her chance to speak about something other than a regular-season loss for the first time since then—and the first word out of her mouth spoke volumes about how it came to pass.
“Teamwork,” said Roehrig, who scored the Muskies’ first goal in a stunning 5-5 tie with the defending NorWOSSA champion Kenora Broncos at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
“The coaches have been telling us all along we can do this because we play like this in practice. Tonight, we actually did it,” she added.
The Muskies ended an 18-game string of futility in NorWOSSA play, dating back to a 2-2 tie against the Dryden Eagles in the final game of the 2001-02 regular season.
Roehrig, forward Stephanie Strachan, defenceman Danielle O’Sullivan, and goalies Kim Pacarenuk and Megan Bob are the five current Muskies who last knew what it felt like to experience something other than defeat during a NorWOSSA campaign.
For Pacarenuk, whose evening included stopping Joelle Charlebois on a first-period penalty shot, the glory of the evening was meant to be passed around.
“I’m proud of my team,” she enthused. “They played tonight like I know they can. I don’t think there was one shot tonight that I didn’t get a clear look at.”
Hannah Firth, who scored twice in the contest, felt the tie would prove just as effective as a win in getting the team back on the right track.
“This just pumps us up more,” she said. “We were ready tonight, and we knew we can play at this level. We showed it tonight.”
“This is a big step for us,” agreed defenceman Mackenzie Caul. “It’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for us. We had to get it out of our heads that we couldn’t compete with Kenora.”
That’s no small statement, considering the Muskies had lost their first three games versus the Broncos this season by a combined 27-2 score—and came into Friday’s game with only 13 skaters against a fully stocked Broncos line-up.
But Roehrig served notice at 15:46 of the first period that a surprise was in store for the visitors.
While killing a high-sticking penalty to Carly Holt, she intercepted a pass along the Muskie blueline and sprinted to a clear-cut breakaway, beating Broncos goalie Marley Hodges with a low wrist shot to the glove side.
The special team continued to be special just 57 seconds later during a Muskie power play. O’Sullivan sent the puck down low to Katie McTavish, who was taken down but still managed to send a no-look backhand pass to Firth for the tap-in goal and a 2-0 lead.
“It hit the heel of my stick,” said Firth. “But I was squatting lower than I usually do and I got enough of it to put it in.”
It looked to be the Muskies’ night for sure when Pacarenuk sprawled to turn away Charlebois’ penalty shot attempt, which was awarded after Caul was whistled for handling the puck in the Fort High crease.
“It was just a blur,” Pacarenuk said about the penalty shot. “I had no idea where she was going. I was just trying to go with the flow. I got a piece of it, and I just prayed it went over me, not in the net.”
Fort High was unable to escape the period unscathed, however, when Kimber Carlson picked off a pass near centre and broke in alone on Pacarenuk. The Bronco forward lifted a backhander over the netminder to breathe new life into her squad.
< *c>Keeping it together
After Kenora’s Riley Edwards finished off a two-on-none at 5:20 of the second to tie the game, another black-and-gold collapse seemed imminent.
But McTavish put the buzz back in the home crowd—and on her own bench—at 10:22 when she smacked home a rebound of Holt’s point shot for the Muskies’ second power-play goal of the night and a 3-2 lead.
Kerry Hyatt then converted another rebound at the side of the net only 33 seconds later in what had to be termed an offensive explosion for a team that had only five goals in six NorWOSSA games entering the game.
That tally led to the end of Hodges’ night, with back-up Kailey McMaster taking over between the pipes for Kenora. But Firth negated the positive nature of the change when she bounced the puck in off a Bronco defenceman 20 seconds into the third for a 5-2 lead.
But with the Muskies on the verge of their first NorWOSSA victory in 26 tries, a desperate Bronco team mounted a full-out assault against their quickly tiring hosts to salvage the draw in the final five minutes.
Anna Percy and Carlson scored 44 seconds apart to shave the lead to 5-4, which led to an immediate time-out by Muskie head coach Jim McMahon.
But despite using that time to try and settle down, the black-and-gold found themselves in survival mode the rest of the way, opting to just dump the puck out and retreat in an effort to preserve the lead.
It almost paid off, but with the Broncos’ net empty, Kenora captain Amy McQuoid corralled a loose puck at the side of the Muskie net and drilled the tying goal with 1:16 left in regulation.
The Broncos almost won it before overtime, but referee Lorne Ricard waved off what looked to be a Kenora goal in the final minute. Another Bronco shot glanced off Pacarenuk’s trapper and dribbled just wide.
< *c>Matter of time
The overtime was controlled mostly by the Broncos, although the Muskies did have a great chance to win it when Kenora was whistled for too many players on the ice at 6:59 of the 10-minute session.
But the subsequent power play yielded no great scoring chances.
Yet the Muskies left the ice not disheartened by what they didn’t achieve, but encouraged by what they still have left to accomplish—namely, a NorWOSSA victory.
“That win is just around the corner,” vowed Pacarenuk.
Unfortunately, that corner is still somewhere down the road.
First, the Muskies dropped a 3-1 exhibition loss to the host St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) on Sunday evening. The game served as a tryout for three forwards who may help fill out a short-handed Fort High roster.
Darcy Smith, who played with the Muskies two of the past three seasons, and her sister, Teresa, took part in the game along with noted Muskie basketball and soccer player Rebecca Cornell.
The trio’s status with the team should be determined later this week.
Courtney Caldwell had the lone Muskie goal while Megan Derouard, Chelsea Cuthbert, and Lauren Penner tallied for the Saints.
Then fatigue and a determined host squad left the Muskies in tatters Monday night in Dryden as the Eagles routed the black-and-gold 9-1 to drop their record to 0-7-1.
Carly Brown’s hat trick highlighted a five-point night for the Eagles’ captain, who received help from Meghan Doucette, who added a pair of goals. Keri Anderson, Darci Everett, Nikki Kruger, and Sarah Montgomery had singles.
Hyatt netted her second goal in two games for the Muskies.
Fort High next heads north for a pair of exhibition games this weekend against the Red Lake Rams, whom they swept here in a two-game series last month, before going across the river to face the International Falls Broncos on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
In their last meeting, the cross-border rivals took turns dishing out the physical punishment in a 3-1 Muskie win here in December, 2002. The game led to International Falls refusing to playing here for the foreseeable future.
The Muskies’ next home games are slated Feb. 6 in Emo and Feb. 7 at the Ice for Kids Arena, both against St. Thomas Aquinas.