Muskies start season with new faces, same goals

It’s been eight months since the Muskies celebrated their ‘A/AA’ OFSAA gold medal on the ice at the Burlington Central Arena, capping off a stellar 38-2-1 season.
But as the team began defence of their provincial crown last night in Kenora, something appears to missing—like 80 percent of their roster from last season.
“It’s seems like it’s been a while but it hasn’t been that long ago,” said Muskie assistant captain Nathan Miller, one of four returning veterans this season along with Jon Woodgate, Donald Kellar, and Lorne Koski.
“Or at least, it feels longer than it has been.”
In addition to the regular crop of graduating students, players either have decided to suit up with the Borderland Thunder of the Superior International Junior Hockey League or play with the local Bantam ‘AA’ travelling team.
It all means the rookies will have to work a little harder in order for the program to continue its winning ways, head coach Glen Edwards admitted.
“There’s never been a year with this much turnover,” he noted. “But I’m pretty confident in this team. I think we’ll be a good team come February and be back for a NorWOSSA championship.”
Edwards said he and assistant coach Ken Christiansen faced a tough task to make the final cuts and set their lines from scratch.
“It’s a grind right now to get those things done but I’m pretty happy overall,” he remarked. “We have some speed, some puck-handling ability, some good size.
“Defence is going to be a project this year.”
Lending a hand to the young blueline corps will be Koski and Woodgate. Koski, a three-year veteran, was voted captain by his teammates earlier this week and will be looked upon to provide leadership.
“You have to look to your seniors for leadership. They’ve all been there and they know what to expect,” stressed Edwards. “We’re going to look to some of the rookies to step forward and become leaders on this club, as well.”
“Everyone is coming along, starting to know how each other plays,” said Koski on some of the new defencemen, including Dave Pollard, Kyle McTavish, and Robert Atatise.
Offensively, losing last year’s top scorers in Kevin Webb (122 points), Adam McTavish (87), and Jeff Savage (72) leaves room for a lot of new faces to get their names on the scoresheet.
Miller and Kellar, the other assistant captain, scored 22 points last season and will be looked upon to up similar numbers this year.
“We’ve put together three good lines. They seem pretty solid,” said Miller. “There’s a little bit of pressure for me to score more, but we’ll just see how the games turn out.”
The coaches also are high on Terry Kellar and Greg Flewelling to put some pucks in the net this season.
In goal, Matthew Gamsby and John Zub will look to fill the void left by regular starters Jamie Booth and Blake Carlson. Edwards said there is no one starter yet.
Fortunately, the Muskies have a history of being a perennial NorWOSSA powerhouse, having gone undefeated the last two seasons in league play while routinely trouncing their opponents.
But it may be too early to assess whether they’ve got enough to reclaim gold at the all-Ontario next March.
“It’ll probably take a couple more months to see what this team has to offer,” reasoned Koski. “Once we get all of our strategy—our power play, our penalty kill—together, that’s when we’ll see if we’ll be in contention.”
In addition to NorWOSSA action, the Muskies will play invitational tournaments in Winnipeg (Jan. 3-5 and Jan. 24-27) and Duluth (Dec. 26-28) this season.
Their first home game is an exhibition showdown against the International Falls next Tuesday (Nov. 27), then they’ll host Chisholm on Nov. 30.
They’ll meet Red Lake in their NorWOSSA home opener Dec. 7-8.