Muskies chasing final playoff spot

It’s a predicament Muskie boys’ hockey team captain Lorne Koski never envisioned.
With just three games left in the regular season, his young team finds themselves on the outside looking in for the fourth-and-final NorWOSSA playoff spot with a 2-9-2 record—one point behind the Sioux Lookout Warriors (3-11-1).
The Warriors lost 7-5 to the Dryden Eagles last night.
“I knew coming in this season it would be hard. I knew it would take a few games for everyone to come together, but maybe not this long,” admitted Koski, one of only three returning players from last year’s team that won all-Ontario gold.
“It’s a big change from last year. You go from winning all the time to not winning all the time,” he noted. “You don’t know how to respond to that.”
The Muskies will have to respond with wins as they venture to Red Lake for a pair of games Friday night and Saturday afternoon against the third-place Rams (6-6-1).
They’ll close out NorWOSSA play next Tuesday (Feb. 19) here against the Dryden Eagles.
Coming off a disappointing split at home against the Warriors last weekend (winning 5-2 on Friday night but losing 6-3 on Saturday), Muskie head coach Glen Edwards remained optimistic.
“I don’t know if I ever thought about [not making the playoffs],” he said. “Coming into the year, I thought we’d make the playoffs for sure.
“I think we’re still positive,” he added. “I still think we can make the playoffs and still have a good shot at the first round.”
The black-and-gold did rebound for a 4-2 exhibition win in Chisholm on Monday night. But forward Jordan Shannon injured his ankle in that game and is questionable for this weekend in Red Lake.
Koski, who has missed the last three league games nursing a sore left charley horse, also is questionable.
“It’s a wait-and-see thing for both of them,” said Muskie assistant coach Ken Christiansen.
The Muskies are winless against Red Lake this season, dropping 3-1 and 5-1 decisions here at home in early December. And the Rams, coached by former Muskie player Mark Wilkins, are enjoying a big improvement from last year’s 2-14 record.
Wilkins said the prospect of burying the defending champs with a pair of wins isn’t as important as preparing his own team for their first playoff appearance in three years.
“I don’t know if we’re using that as motivation,” he remarked. “We’re just concerned with going into the playoffs on a winning note.”
The Muskies were hot and cold during their weekend set with the Warriors. On Friday night, they jumped out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 5-2 victory on goals by Jamie Krukoski, Jordan Wilson, David Pollard, Terry Kellar and Kyle McTavish.
But their stay in fourth place was short-lived as the Muskies only got goals from Kurtis Wepruk, Nathan Miller, and Wilson in a 6-3 loss Saturday.
“Both teams have improved from that first weekend in November,” said Warriors head coach Al MacDonald, whose team has one more game in Kenora this coming Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep on an eye on what Fort does but we’re somewhat in charge of our own destiny now,” he added.
Edwards would rather not go the “play and peek” route.
“We’re just going to go up there and play well in Red Lake. We can’t worry what Sioux Lookout is doing,” he stressed. “We want to go up there and win two games.
“That’s what we’re focused on and that’s all we’re going to focus on.”
Meanwhile, the Muskie girls’ squad—in third place at 4-7—will close out their regular season next Tuesday (Feb. 19) against the second-place Eagles.
These two teams then will meet in the best-of-three semi-finals starting up there Feb. 22. First-place Kenora will host Red Lake in the other series.