The Muskie girls’ hockey team has been a regular player in the silver market this season.
This past weekend, a team-wide investment of hustle and courage finally allowed them to invest in gold stocks.
The black-and-gold outlasted the Red Lake Rams 3-1 in the title game Saturday to earn top spot at the Northern Shield Classic in Dryden.
It was the first tournament title for the squad after two silver medals earlier this season.
“It’s nice to get the monkey off our backs,” said Muskie coach Mel Langtry. “Our goaltending was excellent and the defence played great.
“It was their best tournament yet,” he enthused.
With each team fighting fatigue in what was their third game of the day, it turned into a defensive struggle—with the game still scoreless after two periods.
Jillian Langtry ended the deadlock four minutes into the third on a set-up from Danielle Jean. The lead was short-lived, though, as Jessica Armstrong netted the equalizer just 40 seconds later.
But Langtry had her offensive game going full steam and notched the eventual game-winner at the seven-minute mark on assists from Carlee Bosma and Melanie Scott—the first points of the tourney for both players, who certainly made timely contributions.
Jean then gave Fort High some breathing room two minutes later, converting a feed from Anika McTavish to close out the scoring.
The Muskies dominated the shot clock 44-24, with Melissa Payne making 23 saves to earn the victory.
Hannah Armstrong was saddled with the loss despite a 41-save effort.
“They had a really good goalie,” Coach Langtry said about the Rams’ netminder. “We threw everything we could at her.
“Then we changed up the lines a bit in the third and that seemed to work,” he noted.
Saturday’s gold-medal game actually featured the third- and fourth-place finishers after the preliminary round.
That’s because the Muskies, who nabbed the final playoff spot, upset the first-place Dryden Eagles 4-3 in a shootout in one semi-final while Red Lake shocked the second-place Kenora Broncos 5-2 in the other.
“The girls kind of wanted to play Kenora in the final and I did, too, because we had already beat Red Lake before during this season,” said Coach Langtry.
“I didn’t want them to get too overconfident because they ended up facing the Rams,” he stressed.
The semi-final battle between Fort High and the host Eagles had enough exciting twists and turns to fill three mystery novels.
The home side was sitting pretty in the opening stages as Alex Wesley beat Payne for a 1-0 lead at 5:02 of the first.
Lauren Shoguchi put the Muskies further behind the eight-ball one minute into the second to increase the gap to two.
But the relentless black-and-gold finally solved Dryden goalie Brianna Brown when Jessie Baker put them on the board at the five-minute mark, with Erika Anderson and Langtry drawing assists.
Then at 9:20, it was Courtney Bethune’s turn to shine as she put away the equalizer assisted by Ericka Tymkin and Taylor Dixon.
In the third, Wesley threaded the puck past Payne at the 10:06 mark to put the home side less than five minutes away from a berth in the tournament final.
Not so fast. The Muskies pulled Payne for a sixth attacker in the final minute and the strategy paid off as Shae-lynn Smith knocked the puck past Brown with 49 seconds to go to send the game to overtime.
A scoreless 4-on-4 extra session paved the way for a five-against-five shootout. Payne and Brown both sparkled throughout the breakaway showdown, stopping a combined nine of 10 shots.
But the two chances that mattered most determined the outcome. Smith, the Muskies’ second skater in the shootout, executed a dynamite deke to the backhand to lift the puck past Brown.
Payne then took care of the rest, denying all five Eagles shooters, including a game-ending stop against Wesley, who was Dryden’s last hope.
Fort High had opened the tourney with a 6-1 blasting of the Sioux Lookout Warriors on Friday. Baker had a pair of goals while Courtney Easton, Langtry, Jean, and Tymkin (short-handed) added singles.
Chelsey Jeffery was the only Warrior to solve Dana Cridland, who made 13 saves between the pipes for the Muskies.
Dryden then let the Muskies take a 2-0 lead in their preliminary-round match-up as Baker (2:51 of the first) and Jean (30 seconds into the second) did the damage.
But the Eagles took over from there. Shoguchi ignited the rally with a goal 30 seconds before the end of the second, then caused more havoc 48 seconds into the third with the tying goal.
Morgan Church then made good on an Eagles’ power play nine minutes into the third to propel Dryden to the 3-2 win.
“It wasn’t a good penalty [call],” Coach Langtry suggested of the infraction that led to the game-winner.
“But when you play Dryden in Dryden, they’re going to get the calls sometimes,” he reasoned.
“We jumped on them early, but ran out of steam a little bit at the end,” Langtry added.
Brown made 23 saves for the Eagles while Payne had 24 stops for the Muskies.
Fort Frances then ended the preliminary round with a 2-2 tie against Kenora.
Langtry put the black-and-gold in front at 6:30 of the first, quickly followed by Brittany Sherred’s tying goal 30 seconds later.
Baker scored what could have been a deflating goal for the Broncos with 16 seconds left in the period to make it 2-1. But Kenora regrouped and Sherred put the teams back on even terms nine minutes into the second.
The goalies held their own in the third, allowing neither team to light the lamp.
Payne ended up with 29 saves while Stephanie Ferguson recorded 34 stops for Kenora.
The Muskies then wrapped up a busy week with a 4-2 exhibition win over the Lake of the Woods Bears on Monday night in Baudette.
“We probably should have beat them by more,” said Coach Langtry, whose team outshot the Bears 37-22.
“Coming off a big weekend, we didn’t play our best,” he admitted. “But it was good enough to win.”
Langtry scored twice, with Bethune and Smith notching a goal apiece and Baker adding two assists.
Jamie Mellbuerg and Carly Thompson replied for Lake of the Woods, which was playing its home-opener.
Cridland made 20 saves to earn the victory while Bryne Hanson had 33 saves for the Bears.
Speaking of bears, the Muskies will hold their annual “Teddy Bear Toss” during their exhibition game against the International Falls Broncos next Tuesday (Dec. 8) at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Fans are being asked to bring a stuffed animal to the game, which they can throw onto the ice after the Muskies’ first goal.
The toys then will be donated as Christmas presents to underprivileged children in the region.
Fans also are being asked to bring along boxes of cereal that night, which will be donated to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper food drive.
Before that, though, Fort High has to cross the bridge to take on the Broncos in the first of the two-game series this Friday at Bronco Arena.
Then the black-and-gold head to Dryden on Saturday for a NorWOSSA showdown against the Eagles.