Muskies going to all-Ontarios

Like the Jeffersons, the Muskie boys’ hockey team is movin’ on up—to the all-Ontarios, that is.
The black-and-gold stamped themselves a ticket to Windsor last night with a dramatic 2-1 win over the host Dryden Eagles to take the best-of-three NorWOSSA final two games to one.
After losing the opening game 5-2 on Friday night in Dryden, the Muskies staved off elimination by winning Game 2 by a 4-3 score here Sunday afternoon to force the third-and-deciding game back at the Eagles’ nest.
Brian Vargas got the Muskies on the scoreboard first last night when he scored with 9:12 left in the second period. Dryden quickly answered to send the game to the third knotted at 1-1.
The action went back and forth until Tyler Miller, assisted by Vargas, netted the eventual game-winner with just 5:13 left in regulation time.
But all that would have been moot had the Muskies—with their backs to the wall—not prevailed here Sunday afternoon.
Shaking off the disappointment of Friday’s 5-2 loss, Fort High wasted little time bringing the raucous crowd at the Ice for Kids Arena to their feet as Brett Meyers blasted a slapshot past Eagles goalie Jon Furkalo less than a minute into the highly-anticipated contest.
Tyler Pocock drew the assist.
Muskie fans barely had time to get comfortable in their seats again when Jake Esselink, who had pinched in from his usual defensive position, pounced on a rebound and buried it behind Furkalo, assisted by Brett Perreault.
“I was surprised that we jumped out to a 2-0 lead,” said Muskie head coach Shane Bliss. “I mean it was bang, bang and we were up, but I didn’t think it was over by any means.”
And neither did the Eagles, who battled back to tie the score at 2-2 by the first intermission on goals by Scott Lund.
Whatever Bliss told his team at the break must have sunk in as Brian White converted a nice set-up from Mitch Green just two minutes into the second period.
But just when things were looking good right, Dryden began to apply the pressure, which put the Muskies in a position where they found themselves a step behind the play.
And when you find yourself trailing a play, most players tend to use measures that usually result in a two-minute stay in the penalty box.
Sure enough, Miller was whistled for a roughing penalty with 12:55 left in the second and Dryden made him pay, scoring on the ensuing power play to tie the score at 3-3.
But Green made up for what hockey purists would have labelled “a soft goal” by making a spectacular point-blank save shortly afterwards to preserve the tie—though paying the price physically.
“I got a puck in the head and I couldn’t close my jaw that well,” said Green, who went to the bench to be looked at by Muskie trainer Neil Cooper with 9:40 left in the second.
But just when it appeared that backup Dedrik Brueggeman would take over between the pipes, Green popped a piece of gum into his mouth and headed back to the crease.
“Cooper said to eat some gum, and my jaw [was] still sore, but I don’t really care about it right [then],” Green said afterwards.
Of course he didn’t, because he had one of the best seats in the house for Perreault’s eventual game-winning goal three minutes later.
“I just saw them rushing in and I had the opportunity to come in, and Brock Benjamin just slipped the puck over to me and I just slid the puck back,” said Perreault.
“I actually didn’t mean to score,” he admitted. “I was trying to pass it to Tyler Pocock, but then it got deflected and went into the back of the net.
“It felt so good when it went in. It pumped me and everybody else right up,” added Perreault, whose goal was assisted by Benjamin and Josh Sigurdson.
The Muskies held Dryden scoreless in the third to preserve the win.
It was a different story Friday night as the host Eagles, who had finished atop the NorWOSSA standings with a 13-2-2-1 record, jumped out to an early lead and then cruised to the victory.
“The boys were ready to play hockey tonight [Friday],” Bliss said after the 5-2 loss. “I’m sure there were some butterflies in their stomachs before the game, but things just didn’t quite go well.”
It took the Muskies 39 minutes and 50 seconds to notch their first goal, which came from White (Miller), that made the score 3-1.
The Muskies later drew to 4-2 on Lucas Romaniuk’s goal, assisted by David Pierce and Pocock, with six minutes to go in regulation time but that would be as close as they could get.
Dryden later sealed the win with an empty-netter.
“We played hard, but we just couldn’t get anything going tonight,” a clearly perturbed Benjamin said outside the bus as he waited for his teammates to emerge from of the locker-room.
Obviously, they got it going when they had to—and now will be off to Windsor later this month to vie for the program’s fourth all-Ontario gold medal.