Pieces falling into place for Muskie girls

Dan Falloon

There will be home cooking aplenty as the Muskie girls’ hockey team opens its season with its annual home tournament at the Ice For Kids Arena this weekend.
The black-and-gold will play at least four games in 48 hours, and head coach Mel Langtry is sure the weekend will give his crew an outstanding opportunity to get up to speed.
“I think we’re ready to have a game,” Langtry enthused. “We’re ready to see a bit of action.
“It’s coming together as we figured it would . . . we have our lines pretty well made up.”
The black-and-gold tend to ice a smaller roster with three forward lines, three defensive pairings, and two goalies. But Langtry is convinced his players have what it takes to carry the load.
“Jillian Langtry and Shae-lynn Smith are working well together again, and we thought they would,” he noted.
“They worked well last year together.
“Alyssa Penner is a hard worker, and goes to the net hard, so that will bring the defence in tight and let Jillian and Shae-lynn do a little more of the outside work,” he reasoned.
“We’ve got young Katie Sinclair and Shelby Tymkin with veteran [Jessica] Taggart,” Langtry added.
“There seems to be a lot of speed there and they seem to be moving the puck pretty well.”
The third line features Taylor Dixon with Ericka Tymkin and Hailey Clendenning, and Langtry also has been pleased with their progress.
The blueline, meanwhile, is peppered with newcomers as Melanie Scott is the only returning defender although Danielle Jean, a forward with the Muskies last season, will patrol the back end this year.
Despite the fresh faces, Langtry remains optimistic his defenders can get the job done, though there certainly are targeted areas of improvement.
“This week, I think we’ll work on them a little bit more, their shots from the point, keeping it in, getting it out,” he remarked.
“They have to work on their foot speed a little bit,” he added. “Some of these teams [coming for the tournament] will be really good and have some fast skaters.
“When you get in tight, you have to have good foot speed, so we’ve been working on that—circles, stops, and starts,” he stressed.
Langtry lauded Jean for helping to shore up the defence, a situation she found herself in in an emergency capacity last season.
But she’s not the only forward dropping back as rookie Shelby Rea fulfilled an attacking role before being named to the Muskies.
“She digs really good and can get it out,” Langtry said of Rea.
“We’re looking at her to have a big tournament.”
As well, Langtry said he has been sure to give returning goalies Melissa Payne and Dana Cridland their fair share of rubber, and he likes the looks of his veteran netminders at this point.
The Muskies will open play at their eight-team tournament Friday at 2:15 p.m. against the Sioux Lookout Warriors, then have a quick turnaround with a game against the Portage Collegiate Institute Saints at 6:45 p.m.
Fort High will complete the round-robin portion Saturday at 12:45 p.m. against Dryden.
The semi-finals go Saturday night at 6:45 and 8:15 p.m., with the gold-medal game slated for Sunday at 12:45 p.m.
All games will take place at the Ice For Kids Arena.
The Kenora Broncos, St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora), Red Lake, and Pembina Tigers (Manitoba) are the other teams competing in the tournament.
Langtry said playing two games right away should help snap the Muskies back into the game mentality should they not be quite there at the drop of the puck.
Having Sioux Lookout up first could be beneficial for the black-and-gold given the Warriors struggled for much of the 2009-10 season, although teams can see dramatic changes from year to year.
“We have two games on Friday, so if we’re not ready, we’ll definitely be then, that’s for sure,” Langtry stressed.
“They [Sioux Lookout] weren’t the strongest team last year,” he noted. “They had a few good players but they were one of the weaker team.”
The game the Muskies have circled is the Saturday afternoon showdown with the defending NorWOSSA champs from Dryden.
Langtry said the Eagles are in a similar boat to the Muskies, having graduated much of its blueline from last season.
“We’re looking forward to that [game against Dryden] to give us an idea of where we stand,” he remarked.
“Every team lost certain key players, so we’re not the only ones that did,” he stressed.
In terms of the opposing pool, Langtry expects the Pembina Tigers, who are back to defend their championship title, will be strong.
He also expects NorWOSSA rival Kenora to be strong as they’ve retained the better part of an already-challenging lineup.
“I’ve seen the rosters for most of the teams, and Kenora is looking pretty strong, I thought,” Langtry said.
“Looking at the roster, they didn’t lose a lot of key players.”
One factor working against the Muskies is a lack of practice time, with Langtry admitting the team hasn’t hit the ice as much as he would have liked heading into this weekend.
“Two a week, sometimes it’s not quite enough, and I’d have liked to get in three the week before the tournament,” he noted.
“With ice times the way they are, we just couldn’t get it.
“Last year, we had a couple more practices than we did this year before the tournament, so I think we were a little bit more prepared,” he added.
Still, win or lose, Langtry expects the weekend itself should go off seamlessly given a number of parent volunteers have stepped to the plate and worked hard to get things planned in the few weeks since the team was officially named last month.
“All the parents do all the organizing. It’s a very, very big commitment,” he remarked. “We just picked our team and within a month, we have to organize a big tournament.
“The committee we have and the parents has just been great,” Langtry enthused. “It’s been running very smoothly so far.
“We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully everything goes well and we’ll be playing in Sunday’s final,” he added.
“That’d be nice.”