It was the proverbial mixed bag of results for the Muskie girls’ hockey team as it kicked off the NorWOSSA regular season here over the weekend.
The black-and-gold opened with a 6-4 loss to the Dryden Eagles on Saturday night at the Ice For Kids Arena, but bounced back Sunday afternoon by earning a 6-3 victory over the visiting Red Lake Rams.
“Our ability to come back from a loss with a win, like we did against Red Lake, is a huge thing for us going forward,” noted Muskie assistant coach Michelle Veldhuisen.
“The big thing for us is to make sure that our bench is staying positive and motivated,” she stressed.
“And if that can continue the rest of the way, those type of things will be big for us.”
Prior to kicking off NorWOSSA play, the squad headed to Thief River Falls, Mn. on Friday night to take on the Prowlers in their season-opener, where they were blanked 6-0.
“There was a lot of people there to watch that game so it was pretty wild,” Veldhuisen recalled.
“They were able to get on us quick with their size advantage, but it was a really good physical game down there and we were able to keep up with them,” she added.
Against Dryden here Saturday night, the Muskies found themselves trailing the Eagles 4-1 with just over six minutes left in the second period—despite the fact they had numerous scoring chances during that frame.
But as the second period wound down, Taylor Dixon worked her away around the defence to cut the deficit to two goals.
Then thanks to markers by her and teammate Ericka Tymkin, the black-and-gold knotted the score at 4-4 with 10 minutes to go.
However, a pair of goals by Eagles’ forward Kristen Bartlett in the final few minutes proved to be too much for the Muskies to overcome.
“Looking back on that game, I think the slow start that we had was a just a result of jitters as these league games and home-openers are big for us,” Veldhuisen reasoned.
“We had the momentum there to tie the game up,” she noted. “But when we had the chances to put the game away, we just didn’t have that killer instinct to finish it off.”
For Dryden head coach Brian Patterson, he was quite pleased with how his team performed in their season-opening win, especially since this was the first game of any kind for the squad this year.
“We had been hoping to come down here [to Fort Frances] for the Muskies’ tournament in October,” Patterson said. “But with many of the girls involved with court sports, it’s only been until now that we’ve been able to field a full lineup.
“Despite all that, I was happy with how the girls played tonight [Saturday], and Fort Frances played us very tough, which is what I think you are going to see throughout the season,” he added.
Then on Sunday afternoon, the black-and-gold jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Red Lake in the first period on goals by Hailey Clendenning and Katie Sinclair.
But a pair of power-play markers in the second by Rams’ forwards Ashlyn Baker and Micha Cabral tied the scored going into the final 20 minutes.
“We just took our foot off of the gas basically,” Veldhuisen said of the second period.
“We figured that a two-goal lead was all that we needed, but Red Lake is a good team that plays well together and sometimes that is all that it takes for a team to come back,” she reasoned.
Having given up two power-play goals in the previous period, the Muskies used special teams play to their advantage in the third as Alyssa Penner scored a five-on-three marker.
Shelby Tymkin and Shilo Beck then hit the twine during a four-minute power play a couple of minutes later to put the game out of reach.
“Our special teams’ play is something that we have been trying to work on in practice lately, and our defence were huge out there today [Sunday] in doing that,” Veldhuisen said.
“It’s about recognizing the whole ice in those situations and that’s something that we need to do a lot more as we go forward,” she stressed.
“Those power-play goals in the third period just killed us, especially after we had tied it up in the second,” said Rams’ coach Dave Lamme.
“This is one of the most balanced Fort teams that we have played in a while, as well, as they have attacking players on offence right through the entire roster,” he added.
After travelling to Kenora last night for their first meeting with the Broncos in NorWOSSA play (the outcome wasn’t known by press time), the Muskies were originally scheduled to play the Sioux Lookout Warriors here on Friday night, but that game has been cancelled as Warriors currently are struggling to field a full team for this season.
As a result, the next game for the black-and-gold will take place here on Friday, Nov. 25 as the Broncos will pay a visit to the Ice for Kids Arena.