Muskie girls reflect on first half of season

Lucas Punkari

The holiday season always is a time for reflection, and that is exactly what the Muskie girls’ hockey team is doing this week.
After taking on the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints of Kenora here last night (the outcome wasn’t known as of press time), the black-and-gold will have concluded their NorWOSSA slate for 2011.
Their next league contest is set for Tuesday, Jan. 10 in Kenora against the Broncos.
In reflecting on the first half of his inaugural season behind the bench, Muskie head coach Scott Clendenning is pleased with how things have been going.
“The job of coaching has been what I expected and the girls have been responding great,” he remarked.
“The way that I look at things is that it’s not how your start but how you finish, and the girls have been progressing,” he noted.
“And they always come to practice full of energy, which is a great thing.
“If we keep working in hard in practice, we will be there in the end,” Clendenning added.
After opening their season with a tournament title here back in October, November saw the black-and-gold scratching and clawing to try and get in a win as their lone triumph came in a league game on home ice came against the Red Lake Rams.
However, following a bronze-medal showing at a tournament in Portage la Prairie two weekends ago, in addition to a 4-2 exhibition win in Baudette, Mn. last Tuesday, the squad believes that momentum is heading back to their side.
“I think coming out of the tournament with an undefeated record, and getting a bronze medal, was a good confidence booster for us, and I think we proved what we can do,” said Grade 12 right-winger Ericka Tymkin.
“The weekend in Portage, I think, helped us a lot in our mindset, especially in going out onto the ice and thinking that we are going to win the game,” added Grade 11 defender Nicole Horn.
In addition to confidence being built up over the last couple of weeks, the camaraderie between the players also has grown stronger over the course of the season, both on and off of the ice.
“We’ve been doing things together away from the rink, such as all of us going to the semi-formal dance and other activities,” Tymkin explained.
“They are the only people that I hang out with at school, and it’s always good to find a friend with your teammates, and I think that has helped us to also grow on the ice,” she noted.
“The girls are getting to know each other very well, and everyone is gelling together,” Clendenning agreed.“On the ice, the puck movement between the girls is getting better, as well.
“And I’m a big believer in positive bench talk, and the girls have definitely been doing that,” he added.
The Muskie will be busy on the ice over the holidays, starting next Tuesday (Dec. 27) at 11:45 a.m. when former black-and-gold players take on the current roster in the annual alumni game.
“I remember that last year’s game ended up being very competitive, and it was almost like we really didn’t want to lose to the alumni team,” recalled Tymkin, now in her third season with the Muskies.
“But it will be a fun time for all of us, and it will also allow us, as a team, to work on a few things that we would like to work on in the upcoming games,” she added.
The Muskies then will head to Minneapolis the following day to participate in the Schwan Cup tournament, with their first game set for next Wednesday evening (Dec. 28) against Chippewa Falls from Menomonie, Wis.
“I feel that it’s going to be a tough tournament,” Horn said.
“Having played against the teams from the States before, I know that they play a physical game, and we will have to bring up our game by being more physical, which is something we have been doing lately in our practices,” she noted.
“In the Sturgeon Heights tournament [in Winnipeg] back in October, the other teams used their bodies a lot more and that threw us off a little bit,” Horn admitted.
“But now, especially in our game in Baudette, we’ve been using our bodies and that has helped a lot.”
With the second half of the NorWOSSA season looming, Tymkin feels the recent run by the Muskies should carry through to the rest of the campaign.
“Our coaches have told us over and over again that this is just going to be like mountain climbing, where you start at the bottom and work your way to the top, and I can see and feel that it is going to happen,” she remarked.
“Even if the scoreboard might show a loss, we work our butts off and it ends up being a learning lesson for us.
“And we know that at the end of the year, if we continue to try our best, we are going to come out on top,” Tymkin added.