Third-period ‘problems’ cost Muskies at all-Ontarios

As the Muskies cleaned out their lockers at Memorial Arena on Monday afternoon, they did so knowing it was their third-period collapses that cost them a playoff berth–and possibly a shot at a medal–at the all-Ontarios in Dryden last week.
Outscored 7-3 in the final frame in their four pool games, the black-and-gold could only muster a single point in games they led going into the third period.
“We had problems in the third period–a problem we’ve had all year long,” admitted Muskie head coach Glen Edwards. “We had three bad third periods [at OFSAA].”
Adam McTavish, who led the Muskies with four goals and four assists in their four games, agreed they were guilty of several third-period lapses.
“I think we played well when we led but then I think our problem was we became overconfident,” he noted.
But assistant captain Ryan Armstrong, who played his final game in a Muskie uniform Friday morning due to graduation, felt the team may have been guilty of cracking under the pressure of the all-Ontarios.
“I think the way we played, we should have made it to at least the quarter-finals or maybe even the semi-finals,” the third-year veteran said.
“I think the fact we couldn’t finish games was the difference,” Armstrong added. “Teams would get chances and they would bury them.
“We could have been nervous with the lead,” he continued. “We wanted to hold on to it so we didn’t forecheck or have our defencemen pinch as much.
“It’s tough ending your [career] with the Muskies with a loss,” he lamented.
Despite their inability to hold leads, the team deserved a better fate than a disappointing early exit from the all-Ontarios.
After opening with a tough 5-4 loss to the second-ranked Ridley Tigers (St. Catharines) last Wednesday morning, the Muskies scored a pair of late goals to nip the St. Pius X X-Men (Ottawa) 3-2 on Thursday morning.
Then they hung on to squeak past the St. Peter’s Panthers (Barrie) 4-3 that evening after holding a 4-1 lead late in the game.
But needing a win against the St. Thomas Aquinas Cardinals (Brampton) in their final pool game Friday morning, the Muskies blew a 2-0 lead in the third period to salvage a 2-2 tie.
That tie left the black-and-gold and St. Thomas Aquinas tied at 2-1-1 in Pool ‘B’ behind Ridley (3-1). But the Cardinals advanced to the quarter-finals by virtue of a better goals for-and-against ratio (+3 versus +1).
The St. Thomas Aquinas Flames (London) ended up winning the gold medal Saturday night with a 3-1 win over the St. Andrew’s Saints (Aurora).
Upper Canada College, who needed double overtime to edge the Cardinals 4-3 in the quarter-finals, went on to the bronze medal with a 4-2 win over Ridley.
Despite the disappointment, the Muskies did have several good periods at OFSAA and, at times, easily looked to be one of the top eight teams there.
“I was very happy with the way we played,” Edwards said without hesitation. “I think most importantly, we played as well as we could with Armstrong hurt and [Steve] Keesic out [suspended early in the tournament for spearing].
“Our goal all along was to come out of our pool play and then anything can happen in the playoffs,” he noted.
Edwards said his team played very well in rolling three “balanced” lines up front that put a consistent–and sometimes tenacious–forecheck on the opposition’s defence.
“The key for us was to forecheck them and put pressure on their defencemen and force them to cough up the puck and move it faster than they want,” he remarked.
“But I think the last game we were a bit tired and started to lose our zip,” he admitted. “We weren’t doing the little things [right] that we were doing earlier.”
Meanwhile, the Muskies will sport a different look next season as several veterans played their last game in a black-and-gold uniform.
Captain Chuck Arpin, Jon Lloyd, Jordan Roy, Dwight Galusha, and Armstrong all won’t be back. NorWOSSA leading scorer Brad Gushulak said he plans to return to Fort High next year but must apply to OFSAA for an exemption to suit up again.
Still, Edwards feel this team will be even stronger–and faster–next season.
“I think we’ll come back [next year] with more quickness and scoring–I think we’ll be even better next year,” said Edwards, adding there’s a strong bunch of talent coming up from the Bantam b•macs.
“We have two young goalies that will be back but the key to our team will be getting three or four good defencemen,” he noted. “I just don’t know where we’ll get them.”