Muskie girls go unbeaten in home tourney

Lucas Punkari

It was the perfect way to start off a new season for the Muskie girls’ hockey team.
The black-and-gold captured their annual home tournament on the weekend with a perfect 6-0 record—capped by a 3-2 victory over the Kenora Broncos in the gold-medal game Sunday afternoon at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The title—the third for Fort High and the most by any school in the tourney’s seven-year history—also was an impressive way for first-year head coach Scott Clendenning to begin his tenure behind the bench.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” he said following the title game. “The girls’ battled all weekend long and it was a tough game today [Sunday].
“I give the utmost credit to Kenora,” Clendenning added. “They’ve got a great team, they move the puck well, and they really challenged us.”
“This feels really good, especially after last year when we were losing most of our games,” noted Grade 10 forward Katie Sinclair.
“One of the big things for us this weekend was to beat Kenora as we were unable to defeat them at all last year,” she stressed.
In fact, the Muskies had opened up the tournament Friday afternoon with a 4-2 win over the Broncos—and continued to build on that momentum throughout the rest of the weekend.
Wins over PCI Portage on Friday night, then against Red Lake and St. John’s Ravenscourt (Winnipeg) on Saturday, gave the black-and-gold a berth in the semi-finals, where they blanked the eventual bronze-medal winners from St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora) 2-0 on Sunday morning.
“All of our games weren’t perfect and they weren’t always full of energy, but the girls continued to battle,” Clendenning noted.
“Even in today’s championship game, the girls didn’t quit out there and the result was a win.”
Ericka Tymkin and Jodi Melillo traded first-period goals before Shae-Lynn Smith and Amy Penner found the back of the net to give the Muskies a 3-1 lead with the clock winding down.
But the black-and-gold had a hard time clearing the puck out of their own end in the final eight minutes of the game, giving Kenora many chances to try and cut the deficit, with Andrea Johnson doing just that on a point shot with three-and-a-half minutes to go.
“That is one thing that we are definitely going to have to work on,” Clendenning admitted.
“We need to get the girls to play their position and not run around and chase the puck,” he stressed.
“And I think once we get that down, we’re going to be okay.”
Standing tall, though, in the Muskies’ net during the late stages of the game was Grade 12 goalie Dana Cridland, who made a number of key saves on some nice chances by the Broncos to help her team get the win.
“Those final minutes were quite nerve-racking, especially with so many people in front of my net and there was a lot on my shoulders to help hold the lead with it only being a one-goal game,” Cridland explained.
“It feels so good to finally get that tournament title back as we haven’t won the tournament in forever [their last tournament win was in 2008].
“And this is also a huge confidence-booster for the rest of the year,” she added.
“Dana had a great game and she really held us in there on some point-blank shots,” lauded Clendenning.
Offensively, two of the top shooters for the Muskies over the weekend were Tymkin and Sinclair, who each notched hat tricks during the round-robin portion.
However, Tymkin was quick to focus on how well the team played instead of her individual accomplishment.
“It feels good to know that everything is coming together, and that the months we’ve been training and practice are paying off,” said Tymkin, a Grade 12 centre.
“We’ve been coming together this weekend, and we have been able to win games as a result and we are starting to feel like a team,” she added.
The black-and-gold won’t have very long to rest on their laurels, though. They’ll be heading to Winnipeg for a tournament his weekend, with their opening game slated for Friday morning.
“That’s going to be a very competitive tournament,” Clendenning said.
“The girls have to be ready for every game and every shift out there, and they are going to have to compete hard once again,” he warned.
The squad then will travel to Thief River Falls, Mn. on Nov. 11 before opening their NorWOSSA campaign here the following night against the Dryden Eagles.