Penalties costly in Muskie losses

In last week’s Coach’s Comments by Muskie boys’ head coach Shane Bliss, he inscribed: “Another season of hockey is upon us. . . . Each team in the league looks to be very tough this year.
“Reports indicate Dryden might be the toughest competition in the league with a few ex-Ice Dog additions to their line-up. . . .
“Every win we get this year we will have to earn. If we do not come to the rink to play every night, we will be in trouble.”
How right you are, coach, as the Muskies lost 5-4 to the Red Lake Rams in overtime here Friday night to open the NorWOSSA season, then things didn’t get much better with a 3-2 loss to the visiting Dryden Eagles last night.
The Muskies dominated the first two periods of play against Dryden with a strong attack that materialized many scoring opportunities, but that attack was converted into back-peddling with untimely and costly penalties.
“I thought we played our better first two periods of the year, and we come out in the third and shot ourselves in the foot yet again,” said Bliss.
Heading into the third with new life and vigour after a late second-period goal by Mitch Green squared the score at 1-1, the Muskies amassed only three penalties in the third, but it was when those occurred that stifled their play.
The Eagles came out in the third with an early goal, which was neutralized by Jake Esselink when his shot from the slot found that back of the net. But an untimely penalty later in the period gave Dryden the chance they were looking for and capitalized on the ensuing power play.
That goal sunk the Muskies’ ship as they started scrambling, which, in turn, caused sloppy play and reiterated a problem that has dogged the team in the early going of the season.
“We got to quit taking stupid penalties. No question about that,” stressed Bliss. “The last two game we’ve killed ourselves by taking stupid penalties.
“They’ve got to start listening to me. I think I’ve had that speech with them just about enough times,” an obviously frustrated Bliss added.
“There has never been a Muskie hockey team that has ever been running around undisciplined and won anything.”
“We just didn’t finish the game,” said forward Kevin Plett. “We stopped skating and gave up a few bad penalties, and it just didn’t go our way.”
At least the Muskies won’t have long to think about the loss. They’ll be in Morden, Man. for a tournament this weekend, then will play the International Broncos in an exhibition game here next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Muskie girls’ hockey team battled back to force overtime against Dryden in their season-opener here last night, but a late penalty led to an Eagles’ power-play goal with only two minutes left in the extra session to make the final 4-3.
With strong goaltending provided as always by Kim Pacarenuk, the black-and-gold scored in each period with goals (by Sarah O’Sullivan, Hannah Firth, and Francine McCabe).
But like the boys, penalties proved to be the deciding factor as they had 10 infractions whistled against them while Dryden had just three.
“That was our game plan,” coach Jim McMahon laughed sarcastically.
“It was absolutely a big part,” he added in a more serious vein. “We had our horses, our veterans, killing penalties and after that many penalties, the gas tank was just empty for them.”
The Muskies were coming off a 3-1 exhibition win over the International Falls Broncos last week.
“What we told the girls is that for our first league game and only two games into the season, they’ve shown each other they can play,” noted McMahon.
“They can play well together and at this time last year, we were looking at a long, long winter,” he added.
“We know that we can play with Dryden,” he said. “I think Kenora is going to be the top team in the league again, [but] we’re looking forward to getting a shot at them.”
That will have to wait as Fort High’s next game is an exhibition showdown this coming Monday on the road against the Baudette Bears.