A two-week exam break may be just what the doctor ordered for the Muskie girls’ hockey team.
It’s been a rough go of late for the black-and-gold, who lost 6-2 to the host Dryden Eagles on Thursday night and then were dumped 7-1 by the host International Falls Broncos on Monday night in the finale of their annual two-game “Border Battle” exhibition series.
Head coach Chris Sinclair admitted the break likely has come at just the right time for his squad.
“It’s nice in the sense to have a little bit of a break just to kind of step back for a second and rest up, especially after a couple of tough losses,” he reasoned.
“Over the break, we’ll practice the rest of this week and then they’ll pretty much kind of be optional practises in the terms of if the girls do have exams, obviously it’s school first,” Sinclair added.
“So it’ll be more learning stuff for the girls who are there,” he noted. “Focusing on little things that will only improve us.”
The Muskies, who sport a 5-6-0-1 record in NorWOSSA play, will resume league action on Tuesday, Feb. 5 when they host the Kenora Broncos (4-9) at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Meanwhile, with the schedule creeping ever closer to the playoffs, Sinclair had liked how his young group has matured but is hopeful they will continue to learn and improve every day.
“I think we’re kind of where we were expected to be,” he conceded.
“Having said that, we’ve grown,” Sinclair noted. “Especially after Monday night, I didn’t have to go in there [the dressing room] screaming.
“They kind of knew where the mistakes were happening and areas that we have to improve on, and things that have to change going forward.
“So it was good to see the girls kind of recognize and realize what it’s gonna take if they want to have success,” he added.
As for Monday night’s loss in the Falls, it didn’t take long for the Broncos to get going as they built a 3-0 lead after the first period en route to earning a split in the “Border Battle.”
Fort High had claimed the opener with a 2-1 overtime win here back on Nov. 27.
Maria Vollom opened the scoring just 2:17 into Monday’s game when she tapped the rebound of Olivia Wright’s shot past Muskie goalie Jersey Masson.
Grace Bragg then doubled the lead just over eight minutes later when she deked around the Muskie defence before sending a backhander over Masson.
She then made another highlight-reel play shortly after by deking a few Muskie defenders again before roofing another backhander to push it to 3-0 after 17 minutes.
Masson was replaced in net by Isabella Fortes to start the second period.
Issy Taylor finally got the Muskies on the board seven-and-a-half minutes into the second as she took a feed from Paiten Kinnear and snapped it past Broncos’ goalie Macey Marcotte.
But the Broncos stormed right back with a pair of goals from Emma Erickson (power play) and Taylor Sears less than two minutes apart to build a commanding 5-1 lead.
Sears then tallied her second marker of the night 7:29 into the third on another man advantage for the Broncos as she corralled the puck before spinning around and firing a shot past Fortes to make it to 6-1.
Erickson then notched her second tally less than a minute later as she made a few dekes in the Muskies’ zone before lifting a backhander past Fortes to cap the scoring.
Marcotte made 18 saves to earn the win while Masson suffered the loss in turning aside five of the eight attempts fired her way.
Fortes made 10 saves on 14 shots in her lengthy relief stint.
“It’s not that we weren’t ready or energized,” Sinclair stressed. “It just seemed that the Falls came out stronger, came out more engaged and wanted it a little more, and built up that 3-0 lead.
“It was just too much to come back from, I guess, and it wasn’t our best effort,” he admitted.
“It was a good learning game for us against the Falls, seeing just where we need to get to.”
The black-and-gold were coming off a disappointing loss to the host Eagles (11-1) on Thursday night.
The Muskies trailed just 3-2 heading into the third period after a pair of second-period markers by Abbie Kenny and Taylor, but let things slip away from them in the final frame.
“I thought in Dryden we played pretty good for two periods and in the third, they scored that fourth goal to make it a two-goal game and we just weren’t able to come back,” Sinclair recalled.
“It’s not that we played bad,” he stressed. “But we just got ourselves too far out of the game, I guess, and too late.”