The Muskie girls’ hockey team is looking forward to the NorWOSSA playoffs.
Fort High (7-7-0-1) is guaranteed to finish third in the five-team league, no matter how the rest of the regular season pans out.
That means the Muskies will start the NorWOSSA semi-finals on the road next Tuesday (Feb. 19) against either the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (12-2) or Dryden Eagles (13-1), with the former being the more likely opponent.
The black-and-gold were slated to conclude the regular season with a make-up game here last night against the last-place Sioux Lookout Warriors (0-14), with the outcome not known as of press time.
Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair felt the game would be a good opportunity to transfer what his squad had learned in practice into game action in order to ready themselves for the post-season.
“The importance of moving the puck is something that I stress on the girls during these games,” he noted.
“Making good break-out passes, supporting the puck, and moving down the ice as a unit.
“Spreading out and filling lanes, moving to open space rather than to the puck, are all things that I want our girls to realize and those are the perfect games to execute those things,” Sinclair reasoned.
“In the offensive zone, we have a lot of possession time,” he noted. “It’s one thing to just pass the puck around, but we stress the importance of moving to open space and being an option for a pass.”
Sinclair has liked how the Muskies have progressed in all areas this season, and is expecting a tight battle if they are to face the Saints in the best-of-three semi-finals.
St. Thomas Aquinas won all four games against the Muskies during the regular season and offence was hard to come by.
“Unless something really crazy happens in the game between Dryden and T.A. on Tuesday, we will be playing T.A. in the first round of playoffs,” Sinclair said Monday.
“We will be looking at some tendencies that T.A. has and focusing on how to shut them down.
“They have a good skating team so focusing on gap control and keeping them to the outside will be key,” he stressed.
“And, again, as we have been stressing all season, our defence positioning,” he added. “It will be extremely important to minimize turnovers at the bluelines–getting pucks out of our zone and deep into their zone.
“We have a good forechecking team and we have to play to our strengths,” Sinclair noted.
“We aren’t going to be changing anything that we do,” he reiterated. “It will just be a matter of showing up ready to play, which I believe the girls are ready and excited to do.”
The Muskies headed into last night’s game against the Warriors after routing them 14-1 on Friday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Makenna Henttonen, Martina Woods, Issy Taylor, and Jill Calder each scored twice to pace the onslaught.
It also was “Seniors’ Night” for the graduating Muskie players.
Henttonen (two), Woods, and Calder all scored within the first 5:05 of the first period as the third-place Muskies jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Taylor then netted her first of the night 15 seconds later before the last-place Warriors (0-14) finally got on the board with 7:55 to go in the frame to trim it to 5-1.
Alex Gartzke then blasted home a slapshot to make it a five-goal cushion after 20 minutes.
Ashlyn Beck, Woods, Abbie Kenny, and Kianna Antonick all lit the lamp in the second period to push it to 10-1 after 40 minutes.
Taylor, Tatum Glowasky, Kathryn Fischer, and Calder then connected in the third to cap the scoring.
Isabella Fortes wasn’t tested often in earning the win.
Fort High had gone into Friday’s game fresh off a 2-1 loss to the Saints in Kenora the previous afternoon.
After a scoreless first period, Chelsea Henderson opened the scoring for the Saints 1:49 into the second when she buried a feed from Chloe Skead.
Ellayna Kabel got the Muskies on the board just over six minutes into the third when she lit the lamp off a feed from Glowasky and Reece McQuaker to knot it at 1-1.
But Mackenzie Turner tallied an unassisted marker on a goalmouth scramble just over a minute later to cap the scoring.
The black-and-gold had a great chance to tie it later in the frame but couldn’t capitalize on a two-man advantage.
“I thought we played a pretty good 60 minute game on Thursday against T.A. but came up one goal short,” Sinclair recalled.
“We were down 1-0 going into the third and we did a good job of sticking to the game plan and not giving up, allowing us to tie the game relatively early in the third.
“They went ahead with about 10 minutes left and although we had some good chances, we were unable to get the equalizer,” he added.
“I thought we did a much better job throughout the game on being persistent on the puck,” Sinclair lauded.
“We didn’t really give them much time or space, which minimized their scoring chances and allowed us to gain some offensive zone time.”