Muskies make round-robin exit at OFSAA But team is optimistic about next season

There is no substitute for experience.
The Muskie boys’ hockey team—laden with young players—struggled to a 1-3 record at the all-Ontario ‘AAA’ championship last week in Oshawa.
But while he would have preferred a few more checks in the win column, head coach Shane Bliss was pleased with his team’s overall performance, viewing the experience as a prerequisite for future success.
“We didn’t do all that badly when you think about it,” he remarked.
“We’re a pretty young team,” he added. “At the beginning of the year when we chose the team, we knew we were young and that we needed to get to OFSAA this year for experience.
“I think you can definitely chalk this one up for experience,” Bliss continued. “Overall, I’m not disappointed.
“It would have been nice to come home at least at .500 but we were in those games,” he stressed. “Even the one we lost badly [7-0 to top-ranked Mother Teresa on Thursday night], it didn’t seem like it was that lopsided of a score.
“All in all, I think it was a success and we’ll build on that for next year.”
With 18 of the 22 players on the roster eligible for next season (the exceptions being Mitch Green, Rich Wieringa, Brian Glavish, and Matt McLellan), Bliss is optimistic about the future.
“We were playing against mostly older kids and mostly older teams that are a little more polished,” he explained. “They had a little more hockey sense out there on the ice overall.
“Hopefully we can learn from that because we’d like to keep this group of boys together,” said Bliss. “We should be able to make a pretty serious run at it over the next couple of years—even next year I would think.”
“I thought we did all right [at OFSAA],” agreed Taylor Jorgenson. “We gave too much respect to a couple of teams down there and we didn’t come out flying like we should have.
“We could have played a lot better, I guess.
“I think next year, we’ll know what to expect and we’ll do a lot better,” Jorgenson added. “We won’t be so nervous about everything down there. We were kind of gun-shy this year.”
“It was a learning experience for sure with a younger team,” echoed Muskie rookie Joe Basaraba.
“I think it’ll help us in the long run,” he remarked. “I don’t think we played the best hockey we could but like I said, we’ll learn from our mistakes and get better.”
Basaraba, who led all Muskie scorers with four points in their four games, made a conscious effort to try to absorb as much of the experience as he could during his first trip to OFSAA.
“I watched what the older guys try to do and tried to learn different stuff, like how to play in different moments of the game,” he explained.
< *c>Muskies v. Griffins
The Muskies, playing in Pool ‘A’ as the eighth seed in the 20-team field, got off to a strong start last Wednesday morning with a 5-4 victory over the 17th-ranked Thomas A. Stewart Griffins (Peterborough).
After falling behind 1-0 early in the first, Mike McCaig intercepted an errant pass in the neutral zone, skated into the offensive zone, and wired a slapshot past the Griffin goalie.
The Griffins regained the lead early in the second but Kevin Bobczynski tied the game for a second time when he intercepted a pass and broke in on a breakaway.
Bobczynski froze the Griffin goalie with a head fake and then fired a shot through the five-hole.
The Muskie forward proved instrumental in giving his team their first lead of the game moments later.
After Dustin Brown’s point shot was partially blocked, the puck found its way onto Bobczynski’s stick and he wasted no time firing a cross-crease pass to Basaraba for the easy tap-in.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Griffins scored a late marker to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the final period.
The Muskies opened the period with some sustained pressure. And they finally got the breakthrough they were looking for when Basaraba stickhandled into the slot and fired a backhand.
His drive was stopped, but Kyle Turgeon was parked beside the crease to bang home the rebound.
The pair teamed up again moments later when Basaraba sprung Turgeon and defenceman Brian Glavish on a two-on-one break. Turgeon waited until the last possible moment before feathering a pass to Glavish for the easy re-direction.
But the Griffins would score a late goal to pull to within one—setting up a wild finish.
With just under three seconds to go, a Muskie was whistled for putting his hand on the puck in the Fort High crease, resulting in a Griffins’ penalty shot.
Muskie goalie David Moen played the shooter to perfection, forcing him to take a bad angle shot that grazed the outside of the post.
The Griffins then pulled their goalie in the hopes of a late-game miracle.
Following the face-off, the Griffins crashed the Muskie crease. The puck crossed the goal line but immediately was waved off by the officials as time had expired.
In the ensuing confusion (both teams were arguing the call), a Griffin player speared Moen in the throat.
Several of Moen’s teammates, who had jumped the boards to celebrate the win, witnessed the incident and pursued the aggressor.
A melee ensued—the result of which was Bliss being suspended for the following game for failing to hold the bench.
< *c>Muskies v. Cardinals
In their second round-robin game, the Muskies fell behind early and could not recover en route to a 5-3 loss to the ninth-ranked Brother Andre Cardinals (Markham) on Thursday morning.
Trailing 5-0 after two, the black-and-gold came out in the third looking to generate some momentum heading into their next game that night.
Basaraba led an end-to-end rush and dished the puck to Turgeon. The gritty winger quickly passed the puck to Mitch Green, who then fired a shot on goal.
The drive was stopped but Bobczynski, parked beside the net, buried the rebound.
Minutes later while on a power play, Zach McCool fed the puck up to Glavish, who broke into the Cardinals’ zone on a two-on-one with George Halverson.
Glavish drew the defender and then passed the puck to Halverson, who slipped it past the goalie five-hole.
The Cardinals’ penalty woes in the period continued and the Muskies capitalized on a second power play.
This time, Patrick Bobczynski hit Matt Hebert with a pass, who then worked the puck to McCaig. The Muskie defenceman stepped into the zone and uncorked a big shot that beat the Cardinals’ goalie top corner.
But that was as close as Muskies would come.
< *c>Muskies v. Spartans
The Muskies then were blanked 7-0 by the top-ranked Mother Teresa Spartans (London) on Thursday night—a loss that officially eliminated the team from advancing to the quarter-finals.
Penalties were a major factor in the defeat as the Spartans scored four power-play goals and added a fifth goal just eight seconds after another Muskie penalty had expired.
“We lost our cool,” Jorgenson said of the game. “That third period, we didn’t even go out to play. We were just taking stupid penalties all over the place.”
Just about the only bright spot for the Muskies was the play of Wieringa between the pipes. The graduating goalie made several big saves throughout the course of the game.
Muskies v. Mavericks
The Muskies wrapped up their tournament with a hard-fought 4-3 loss to the 16th-ranked Mayfield Mavericks (Caledon) on Friday morning.
The black-and-gold opened the scoring while on the power play when Jorgenson buried a Halverson rebound.
The lead would be short-lived, though, as Mayfield scored twice before the period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Muskies pulled even early in the second when Basaraba skated into the offensive zone and dished the puck to Turgeon.
The Muskie assistant captain then fired a puck cross-crease to Kevin Bobczynski, who one-timed it past the Mayfield goalie to tie the game 2-2.
Fort High took their second lead of the game when Blake Wepruk fed Jorgenson the puck, who skated into the high slot and wired a shot high and to the stick side for his second goal of the game.
But Mayfield scored late in the second period and then again in the third en route to the 4-3 win.