It’s been a pretty consistent script for the Muskie girls’ hockey team on home ice so far this season.
Fall behind early, then attempt to mount a valiant comeback—only to fall short by a goal in the end.
That was the case here Friday night as Fort High (1-4) fell 5-4 to Kenora.
Assistant coach Michelle Veldhuisen said the black-and-gold just didn’t come out in the first few minutes of the game and it ended up proving costly.
“We play the same teams over and over—we shouldn’t take the first five minutes to get used to them,” she reasoned.
“I think that’s the biggest thing.
“After that first goal, it took a little bit of wind out of our sails, and we’ve got to learn that every shift is a new shift,” Veldhuisen stressed.
“You’ve got to start over. You can’t undo what’s already been done.
“It’s conditioning, too, and it’s the mental aspect we’ve got to figure out if it takes us that long to get our heads into the game,” she added.
Fort High got the first good scoring chance of the game when Taylor Dixon was sprung on a breakaway. But she was stonewalled by Broncos’ goalie Courtney Alcock.
Perhaps buoyed by that, Kenora opened the scoring a few minutes later when Ainsley Lindquist chipped a puck over Muskie netminder Melissa Payne at 9:19.
The Broncos kept pressing but were unsuccessful, led by a Payne save on a Sam Smith breakaway.
But Smith got revenge later on, taking a shot from the left of Payne that just squeezed through with 15 seconds left in the opening period.
The visitors then made it 3-0 when Jess Ricklefs hit the twine net about six minutes into the second.
On “Teddy Bear Toss” night, it was defender Sydney Jones who let the fans finally unleash the furry flurry, blasting a slapper over Alcock’s blocker at 9:27 of the second to make it 3-1.
The number of bears tossed onto the ice for the local Salvation Army’s Christmas hamper program was unavailable as of press time.
The Muskies further cut into the lead at 15:06 when Shae-lynn Smith unleashed a near-carbon copy of Jones’ goal.
While Jones’ goal was the one to get Fort High on the board, it was Smith’s that really got the squad starting to believe.
“We started hearing some positive things on the bench, and that goes a long ways,” Veldhuisen recalled.
“Getting goals from people who haven’t scored is a big thing,” she added. “That shot by Shae was an awesome goal.
“We liked to see that, the crowd liked to see that. It definitely inspired a lot of them.
“We’ve been working on shooting the last couple practices and it’s nice to see that reflected in a game,” noted Veldhuisen.
Kenora bounced back early in the third, however, as Hannah Rose pounced on a rebound at 6:24.
The Broncos then made it 5-2 when Lindquist notched her second of the night, getting a shot underneath Payne’s glove at 12:18.
But Fort High didn’t roll over. Jillian Langtry pulled the Muskies close at 16:35 by drilling a close-range slapper into Alcock that bounced up and over the goalie.
Langtry then struck once more with 38 seconds to play, whacking home a centering pass from Shelby Tymkin to cut the deficit to one.
But that was as close as the Muskies could get.
Veldhuisen was pleased to see the gusto with which the Muskies played late in the game—and hopes they can duplicate the effort in future contests.
“In the last period, they figured out what it means to put effort into it, that when they try, they can play some pretty good hockey,” she said.
“It’s great to see Shelby Tymkin playing as well as she is,” Veldhuisen enthused. “She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s definitely taking a big load of the play out there.”
Payne finished with 29 saves on the night while Alcock turned aside 30 shots.
Payne was forced to deal with a number of Broncos who were able to get sprung one-on-one with the netminder.
Veldhuisen chalked up the breakaways to sloppy turnovers.
“Turnovers definitely were our downfall,” she stressed. “The turnovers were just from a lack of focus.
“You put your head up before the puck’s on your stick and you’ve just got to go through the motions in the right order,” she remarked.
“You have the puck on your stick for a very small percentage of the time you’re on the ice, and it’s trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be when you don’t have the puck that we have to work on.”
Fort High visited the International Falls Broncos for an exhibition game last night (the outcome was unknown as of press time), then will head to Portage la Prairie, Man. for a tournament this weekend.
They’ll return home to face Baudette in Emo next Tuesday (Dec. 14).
Veldhuisen is banking on these games with their American rivals will light a little bit of a fire under the team as the match-ups are more rare than ones within NorWOSSA.
“That’s a game in itself, where with these [NorWOSSA] teams, it’s a season,” she reasoned.
“Every game doesn’t have as much weight put on it, whereas those games against the Falls and Baudette, they have a lot of weight.
“Hopefully, we can put some of the effort that we showed in the last period [against Kenora] into that game,” she added.
“It’s just working what we need to work on and learning from our mistakes, and capitalizing on theirs.”
Veldhuisen concluded by thanking fans who participated in the team’s “Teddy Bear Toss” on Friday night.