Storylines centering around the Muskie girls’ hockey team haven’t always focused on hockey in recent years, but the focus will be solely on the ice when the team begins pre-season workouts tonight.
A revamped coaching staff, which includes newcomer Mel Langtry and returnee Rody Anderson, have come in focused on changing the culture with a program that has had talent but not always the results to back it.
“We went for maybe a little different style, didn’t go with as much experience as we could have,” Langtry noted.
“There were a few more Grade 12 players we could’ve took, but we went this route and I think it will help in the long run,” he added.
Outgoing coaches Lynn Kellar and Chris Hill have to be commended for building the program up from humble beginnings during their tenures but off-ice issues—including the infamous pow-wow video that surfaced on the Internet last year—seemed to affect the squad’s on-ice success.
“I was only a part of it last year with my daughter [Jillian] on the team, but I saw things that I know we can improve on right from the practice and dryland to the intensity [in games],” Langtry stressed.
“We’re looking for coachability, and we want to see eagerness and intensity,” he remarked. “We want to get some crowds out and get a good following.
“I know the boys have it, so hopefully the girls will have it sooner or later.”
Last week’s tryout camp drew 33 skaters and goalies, with Langtry admitting the task of paring down the roster to 17 was a difficult one.
“I think 33 came out and we went down to three lines, six ‘D,’ and two goalies, so I had to cut 16, which was tough because there’s a lot of good, young talent coming [up],” he noted.
“There are more kids playing and the girls are getting a lot better coaching down below, and it’s helping out the [Muskie] program greatly.”
Despite icing a decidedly younger team this season, the blueline corps is loaded with experience, including returning seniors Erika Anderson, Anikka McTavish, Courtney Easton, and Kimmy LaFleur.
The forward group is young but includes returnees Jessie Baker, Carlee Bosma, Jessica Taggart, and Jillian Langtry.
It also boasts first-year Grade 10 players Shae-Lynn Smith and Taylor Dixon, who combined to lead the Pinewood Blades to a dominating season in house league last season.
“My daughter played with them for years and it will be nice for them to play together again,” Langtry said of Smith and Dixon.
“They know how to play at a high level, so we’re looking for them to step it up and hopefully they can in the high school league.”
Fellow Grade 10 forward Ericka Tymkin (who played for the Baudette Bears last season) and Grade 9 players Alyssa Penner, Courtney Bethune, and Danielle Jean round out a banner crop of rookies.
“I’m very excited . . . looking forward to this year,” Langtry enthused. “A lot of young kids, so it should be a learning experience, but I think the older ones will take these young ones under their wing and we should have a fast team.
“They are all eager to learn, which is good,” he stressed.
The Muskies also will be inexperienced between the pipes, with 11th-grader Melissa Payne beginning her first full season in goal for the black-and-gold alongside Grade 10 netminder Dana Cridland.
“Melissa Payne will be counted on quite a bit,” Langtry said. “She came out towards the end last year, as we had one goalie most of the season [Sara Trendiak], but she’ll put a full year in with us now.
“Dana Cridland looked really good in the tryouts and I’m really happy with that,” Langtry added.
“Nice to get a young girl in there and get her groomed for years to come.”