Muskies boys finding their groove

Head coach Shane Bliss repeatedly has referred to the Muskie boys’ hockey team as being a growing snowball ever since their 3-0 exhibition win over International Falls here last Tuesday night.
Well, that snowball grew last Thursday with a dominating 7-0 shutout over the host Kenora Broncos for their first NorWOSSA win of the season, then it got even bigger last night after a 2-1 victory over the Eagles up in Dryden.
Tyler Miller led the way with both goals.
The Muskies, looking to avenge a 3-2 loss to the first-place Eagles here earlier in the season, now sport a 2-2 record in NorWOSSA and are starting to fulfill pre-season expectations.
But it was their breakout game against Kenora last Thursday which turned the tide. In fact, you could say one team entered the arena; another one left it.
Going into the game, the Muskies were winless in NorWOSSA play and talked about the kind of team they could be. But afterwards, the black-and-gold discussed what kind of team they were.
“Word hard. Be smart on defence. Generate some shots offensively. Make things happen out there,” Bliss recapped when asked to digest what Muskie hockey is all about.
Not that the Muskies hadn’t followed those philosophies; it’s just that they followed only a few each night. In their exhibition win against International Falls here two nights previous, they looked sluggish at times.
At the Morden tournament there were mental lapses. And in their 3-2 loss to Dryden, they took too many “dumb penalties.”
But against Kenora, the Muskies simply dominated the game—there is no other way to put it.
When you take only six minutes in penalties (which had been their Achilles heel entering the game), put 45 shots on net, allow only 20 shots on your rookie goalie (and first-time starter), and have 11 different players notch points, that would be considered what the Athenians regularly did to the Persians in ancient times—dominate.
“We just wanted to get that [NorWOSSA] win under our belts. We were pretty hyped up for this game and just wanted to come out kick some [butt],” said defenceman Matt Redford.
“We just wanted to skate them to the ground basically.”
And that they did.
Lucas Romaniuk, assisted by Josh Sigurdson, opened the scoring in the first, but it was the second frame when the Muskies took control of the Broncos’ reins and simply did not let go.
Tyler Pocock (Mitch Green/Alex McQuarrie) made it 2-0, then Brett Meyers (Pocock) wired a slapshot top shelf on the very next rush to put the black-and-gold up by three.
Shaun Egan (Brian White) kept things going 10 minutes later when he let loose a drive from the point on the power play.
Miller scored the Muskies’ fourth goal of the period on a breakaway after an Andrew Easton feed that saw him tuck the puck neatly past the Broncos’ goalie.
The Muskies also had numerous scoring chances in the third before finally being rewarded when Pocock (Justin Larson) squeaked the puck past the goalie.
McQuarrie then tallied half-a-minute later to round out the scoring.
“Everyone was pretty confident from the Falls game and we were still riding the adrenaline from that into this game,” said Pocock, who finished with three points and “finally got the monkey off my back” (he had not registered a goal before the game).
The most impressive part of the lopsided win, though, was the total team effort. From the top line right down to the last player on the bench, everyone contributed.
“Wade [Friesen] played good in the pipes,” said Redford. “The defence got the puck out to the forwards, and the forwards finished them off with a couple of goals.
“And the defence got some goals, too.
“We can play a lot better than what we have been, and it’s just going to keep going,” Redford added.
The Muskies were a team of inconsistency heading into last Thursday’s game as one could never expect what the team would or would not do, but the win against the Falls had started building what Bliss had described as “a snowball” representing their confidence.
And the dismantling of Kenora only added another layer to the symbolic simile.
“They kept me on the edge of my seat every game so until that final buzzer goes, I don’t really breathe a sigh of relief,” remarked Bliss. “We’re pretty happy with our effort from start to finish, and I told the boys that I think we’re starting to come together.”
The Muskies, who will play the Baudette Bears next Tuesday here at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena, know they have to bring that kind of effort every night in order to reach their pre-season goal of making it to the all-Ontarios.
“All of the teams in this league go all the time, so you can never let up on them,” said Pocock. “[But] everyone is feeling confident now and we’re going to be rolling now.”
Just like a snowball, wouldn’t you say?

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