A wave of new changes has swept over the Muskie girls’ hockey team heading into this season.
The roster features just four returning players while the team also has a new coaching staff, which will be led by Chris Sinclair.
Todd Hamilton decided to step down as head coach after the previous season, where the Muskies booked their fifth-straight trip to the all-Ontarios before being eliminated in the semi-finals.
Sinclair previously had stints as an assistant coach for the Fort Frances Lakers and Muskie boys’ squad, and he’s hoping those experiences will help him as the head coach of the girls’ squad this season.
“I have always wanted to take on a bigger role as coaching hockey is something that I love doing,” he enthused.
“With getting a full-time position at the high school, and Todd Hamilton stepping away from the girls’ program, it was a perfect opportunity and time for me to step into a head coaching role.”
Joining Sinclair behind the bench this season will be assistant coaches Kyle Turgeon, Amy Penner, and Jessie Baker.
“I am very excited that I have such a great coaching staff and am thrilled with the opportunity to work with each of them,” said Sinclair, who also serves as the Muskie boys’ soccer team head coach and as president of the Borderland Soccer League.
“I think we have a great combination of leadership and hockey experience on the bench that will go a long way.
“Kyle was a very hard-working player who was a leader both on and off the ice,” he noted. “He knows what it takes to have success and always has a team-first mentality.
“Amy has lots of experience with the Muskie girls’ program as she led the team to their first silver medal at OFSAA in program history,” Sinclair added.
“Along with Jessie’s background in hockey, she brings a lot more to the team,” he said.
“She does a lot of motivational speaking, building self-confidence and team-building, and she is going to be a great role model for these young girls,” he lauded.
“We are a very passionate group that is motivated to help these girls develop and have success both as hockey players and as individuals.”
Returning to this year’s team are Emily Kaun, Alex Gartzke, Reece McQuaker, and Jill Calder.
The new members include Kianna Antonick, Isabella Fortes, Tatum Glowasky, Ellayna Kabel, Abby Kenny, Katrina Koomans, Savannah McGinnis, Issy Taylor, Ashlyn Beck, Kathryn Fischer, Makenna Henttonen, Paiten Kinnear, Jersey Masson, and Marti Woods.
They are joined by affiliate players Kylee Keith and Lexi McAdams.
“We are a brand new team,” Sinclair said. “Everyone from the players, with the exception of the four returning girls, to the coaching staff.
“Having said that, the Muskie girls’ hockey program has worked hard to get to where it’s at,” he added.
“Scott Clendenning started a winning tradition with the program several years ago and [was] carried on by Todd Hamilton the past few years,” he lauded.
“Fort Frances has been at the top of the league for a number of years now, which gives the team high expectations,” Sinclair conceded.
“Although we are a new team, we have high expectations for ourselves.
“We have set a few team goals, one of which is to win NorWOSSA and advance to OFSAA,” he noted.
“Obviously, this is going to take a lot of hard work, and it is going to take all the girls to buy into the program, but I am confident with the group of girls that we have [that] this is a realistic goal.”
The team began practising last week and will get its first taste of game action this weekend by hosting the annual Scott Clendenning Memorial Showcase on Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Sports Centre.
The Thunder Bay Fury, Sioux Lookout Warriors, and Kenora Broncos also are slated to participate.
The Muskies will face the Warriors at 8 p.m. on Friday at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Then on Saturday, the black-and-gold will play the Fury at 10:15 a.m. before capping tourney play against the Broncos at 4:15 p.m.
Both of those games will take place at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“We only just started practising last week, meaning we have only had a limited amount of practices,” Sinclair noted.
“As a coach, I believe playing systems and having structure to your game is how to have success,” he added.
“We have been working on various systems that we will be using throughout the year, with a major focus in our defensive zone [as] I believe it is the most important zone on the ice.
“Breaking out of our zone, and our defensive positioning, have been some keys that we want to master as soon as possible,” Sinclair stressed.
“Having said that, there is a lot to learn and introduce in such a short time of practice.
“This weekend will be a good eye-opener for us,” he remarked. “Having these kind of games before the season is great, and the girls are very excited to finally get on the ice and start playing.”
After the Showcase, the black-and-gold will head to Warroad, Mn. for a scrimmage tourney on Nov. 9-10.
Then they’ll open the NorWOSSA regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 13 when they host the Broncos at the ’52 Canadians Arena.