Muskie girls win consolation trophy

More wins would have been golden, but one victory had a silver lining.
The Muskie girls’ hockey team came close to a much better fate, but still captured the consolation trophy in the Orange division of the varsity category of the Minnesota Girls Holiday Cup tournament in Blaine, Mn. last Thursday through Saturday.
“The girls are so used to playing teams like Kenora, where the second they have the puck on their stick, someone is right on them,” said Muskie head coach Jim McMahon.
“Down there, more of the teams were on our level,” he noted. “Our team had time to lift their heads and look where they were skating with the puck.”
The Holiday Cup is the largest high school girls’ hockey tournament in the U.S., drawing 82 teams this year which were split into varsity and junior varsity categories.
The black-and-gold began the tourney with a 5-3 loss to the Long Prairie-Wadena-Deer Creek Blue Devils on Thursday afternoon, with the biggest hurdles being highway fatigue and starry eyes.
“We had a five-and-a-half hour bus ride and then had to play our opener later that day,” said McMahon. “Then when the girls saw the facility, with Olympic-sized ice surfaces and probably 1,000 people at each game, they were in awe.
“For our rookies to have that experience was a little rattling to them.”
The nerves were obvious early against the Blue Devils, who vaulted to a 2-0 lead after one period on goals by Lacy Ostendorf and Amanda McManigle.
Katie McTavish got the Muskies back on their skates with a goal 36 seconds into the second period on a set-up from Steph Strachan and Tara Lloyd to cut the deficit in half.
But the Devils scored three-straight in a span of 5:20 later in the period, as Angie Johnson sandwiched goals around Ostendorf’s second of the game to make it 5-1 entering the third.
Fort Frances made a game of it in the final stanza as Darcy Smith tallied at 1:11, with Krystine Marchuk and MacKenzie Caul adding assists.
Smith impressed her coach in her first game back after going down with a sprained knee against Kenora back on Dec. 13.
“Darcy looked like she was back to full speed,” praised McMahon. “She doesn’t wear a letter, but she’s definitely one of our leaders on the ice.”
Marchuk then collected an unassisted goal at 5:32 to make it 5-3 but despite outshooting the Blue Devils 18-16 in the game, the Muskies could draw no closer.
Offensive depth was the key in Fort High’s 3-1 win over St. Bernard’s on Friday night as all three forward lines contributed on the scoresheet.
“We were more prepared in the second game,” said McMahon. “The girls had time to execute plays and passes, looking for each other in front, and setting up plays at the point.”
Lloyd completed a three-way passing play from Becky Witherspoon and Strachan at 8:28 of the first to put the Muskies in front. Hannah Firth then wired home a power-play goal at 1:43 of the second, with Brooke Shabatura and Heather Dutton drawing assists, to make it 2-0.
Andria Fuerst threw a scare into the black-and-gold 32 seconds later, scoring unassisted to slash the lead to 2-1.
But a Fort Frances team known for giving up goals in bunches this season held firm, with Marchuk netting an insurance goal at 9:59 of the third to clinch the victory.
The Muskies outshot St. Bernard’s 25-6 on the official scoresheet, and 35-6 by their own count.
With a chance to finish above .500 for the tournament, the Muskies were blanked 1-0 in a nailbiter Saturday night against Andover, which McMahon said featured more than questionable officiating.
“In the 12 years I’ve coached, I’ve never wanted to complain about the refereeing,” said McMahon, who watched his team get hit with five of seven penalties called in the game, including four in the third period.
“There’s no doubt we deserved the penalties we got. We weren’t angels. But there was definitely favouritism shown toward Andover by the officials,” he said.
“When they would use their sticks on us, we’d react and end up getting the penalty.”
The Muskies killed off all five Andover power plays, but shot themselves in the foot one minute into the third period when an ill-advised cross-ice pass as they were coming out of their zone was intercepted by Hilary Gerster.
The Andover forward walked in and zipped a shot into the back of the net for the game’s only goal.
The Muskie blueline corps was shorthanded for most of the game, when Caul was hurt during a line change early in the first period and missed the rest of the contest.
“She was going out on the ice and people were coming off, and in the schmozzle of getting out the door, she twisted her back,” noted McMahon.
“We practice again on Sunday and she should be back by then.”
Fond Du Lac-Waupun captured the Orange division title with a 3-0 mark, while Andover and Moose Lake tied for second at 2-1.
The Muskies and Long Prairie-Wadena-Deer Creek both posted records of 1-2, with the Minnesota squad getting the nod for fourth place because of their head-to-head victory against the black-and-gold.
St. Bernard’s brought up the rear with an 0-3 record.
The Muskies resume NorWOSSA here Jan. 7 against the Dryden Eagles.