Muskies hockey teams excited to get back on the ice

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Exhibition games are underway, but both Muskies teams are ready to jump into the season

After over a year without Fort Frances High School hockey, both girls and boys teams are ready to hit the ice for a season that will look different from those in recent memory.

With the season getting underway in a week with both boys and girls teams playing in Kenora, excitement is ramping up. After a year without high school hockey, the two teams are raring to go but this season will look a little different. Teams only expect to play within the NORWOSSA athletic division which means the only teams that they will play against will come from Kenora, Red Lake, Dryden and Sioux lookout. Schools in the area can arrange exhibition games separate from league play but there will not be any play against other teams this season.

The Muskies girls’ team has played five exhibition games now. Including a pair of wins last Sunday against St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Kenora. The first game they played Sunday they won 6-3 with a hat trick by Paiten Kinnear. They won the second game 4-3 in a comeback from down 3-1 in the third period. They currently boast a 4-0-1 record including two wins and a tie in games against Beaver Brae Secondary School and Dryden High School at the end of October.

Coach Nicole Clarke says she and other coaches are happy to see how the girls have come together as a team.

“We’re really happy about how the girls have been working together in our exhibition games and our practices,” Clarke said.

The team came together quite quickly for their first set of games. They picked up a tie in their first game and won the next two that weekend after only three practices.

“When we played those three exhibition games they only practiced together three times,” Clarke said. “So with that the coaches were really, really happy about how the girls played and worked together.”

Clarke says she thinks the fact that there was no hockey last year has given the girls extra drive to get the season started this year.

“With COVID last year, the girls are really, really excited to get going when hockey season starts every year,” Clarke said. “But I do think that being without Muskie hockey last year they’re much more motivated and excited to get our regular season going this year.”

The Muskie boys started their season off with a pair of exhibition games also against St. Thomas Aquinas in Kenora on Sunday. They won their first game 8-0 and the second game 7-0.

These were the first two games for the Boys side.

The team has been practicing since the middle of October. With the Volleyball and Football seasons ending hockey is now getting into full swing.

Like the girls, the boys were excited as they geared up to get going.

“You could just feel the intensity and feel the excitement about getting back to that level [of play],” said coach Chris Sinclair.

The team will have a slightly different composition this year with just three returning players.

“It is a pretty brand new team,” Sinclair said. “I think we only have five or six grade 12s, the rest are pretty much grade 11 and 10 with a couple of grade nines as well.”

Both teams will have a few kinks to work out before the NORWOSSA regular season gets underway on Nov. 28 in Kenora. Some players played last year in local house leagues but the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to most other hockey and there was no travelling permitted for sports, so everything was local.

In league play, for both girls and boys, each team will play home and away games against the other teams in the division. This means the boys will get 10 games and the girls will have eight.

The shorter schedule means less action than teams have had in the past and it ups the importance of each game in league play according to Sinclair.

“You need to bring your best effort each game, you can’t have a night off,” Sinclair said. “Because, if you do, it could very well hurt you in the standings. If you’re only playing a limited amount of games, one loss could affect that, could be the difference between first and second, or in the long haul, home ice or playing on the road in the NORWOSSA final.”

Schools can arrange exhibition games outside of league play as well, but again will be limited to playing the teams in the NORWOSSA division. When it comes to exhibition games, the teams hope to be able to schedule boys and girls games together to keep transportation costs as low as possible.

The regular season starts Nov. 28 and the teams will play their first home games on Friday, Dec. 3, the girls will play on the ‘52 Canadians rink at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will play on the Ice For Kids Rink at 6:45 p.m.