Muskies hoping tough losses help at NorWOSSA

The Muskies opened the NorWOSSA championship here today knowing the could have–and should have–done better than their 2-2 record at an exhibition tournament in Kenora last weekend.
They blew away the Sioux Lookout Warriors 4-0 and Red Lake Rams 7-0 but had trouble finishing their scoring chances in a pair of 1-0 losses to both the Dryden Eagles and Beaver Brae Broncos (Kenora).
The Muskies held the territorial play in both those games and very easily could have turned them into one or two-goal victories. In fact, against Kenora, the black-and-gold hit the goalpost twice and the crossbar two other times.
But the Muskie coaches are saying those two tough losses may prove to be a blessing at NorWOSSA.
“In both the losses, we outchanced them and dominated them,” assistant coach Benji Andrusco said. “But I think it kind of sets the tone because our guys will focus more and they will be a little bit hungrier.”
“Those type of breaks could happen to any team,” head coach Keith Gilbert said of his team’s misfortunes. “But quite often, teams that go undefeated [at a tournament] get a little cocky.
“We’re disappointed with the losses but we’re not disappointed with the overall play,” he stressed. “We just let some golden opportunities slip away.”
Seeded third and in Pool ‘B’ for the seven-team NorWOSSA showdown, the Muskies squared off against Dryden this morning (results weren’t available by press time), then will play St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora) at 5:50 p.m. today.
They wrap up round-robin play tomorrow at 9 a.m. against Sioux Lookout.
Rainy River, Beaver Brae, and Red Lake are in Pool ‘A’.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the semi-finals Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., with the top team from each pool playing the second-place team from the other pool.
The final is slated for 6:30 p.m., with the winner moving on to play the Thunder Bay champs there for the NWOSSAA crown May 29.
As noted, the Muskies certainly had their share of scoring chances against host Beaver Brae at last weekend’s NorWOSSA tune-up. But it was the Broncos who finally snapped the scoreless tie with just over a minute to play on a penalty kick after Dave Egan hauled down a Kenora forward in the penalty area.
Muskie keeper Jordan Roy made a spectacular diving save but the rebound squirted to the side and was gobbled up by a Kenora player, who calmly put it up in the top of the net.
“It was a questionable call but it was one that the referee had to make,” Muskie assistant coach Benji Andrusco said.
But even with the bad break, the Muskies took the ball on the ensuing play and marched it down field and had three great chances to tie the score to no avail.
Although the Muskies had trouble scoring against Kenora and Dryden, it wasn’t due to a lack of chances or pressure. Adam McTavish (who had another excellent weekend scoring-wise), Terry LaBelle, and Steve Keesic give them a strong trio of talented players up front.
“We rely on those guys to set up plays,” said Andrusco. “The key for us is to get the first goal. It seems like whoever gets the first goal gets the momentum.”
“It is very important,” agreed Gilbert. “Teams like Beaver Brae, once they get the ball in their net, they put pressure on themselves.”
The Muskies definitely were able to get that first goal–and more–in their lopsided wins over Red Lake and then Sioux Lookout, showing just how much disparity there is among soccer teams in NorWOSSA.
McTavish led the way offensively against Red Lake, scoring three times in the first half alone, while Keesic added another one as the Fort jumped out to a commanding 4-0 lead.
Josiah Morris, on a nice individual effort down the wing, Egan, and Jeremy Wilson added second-half goals to round out the scoring.
Against Sioux Lookout, the Muskies again jumped out to a huge lead at the break, then coasted to the easy victory. McTavish had a pair in that one with Keesic and Benj DeGroot adding singles.
All told, McTavish scored five goals in four games last weekend and definitely will have to keep up his hot pace here this week if the Muskies entertain any hopes of playing for NWOSSAA gold later this month in Thunder Bay.