Second season all ready to roll

It’s the best time of the year. After six months of exhibition games, tournaments, and regular-season contests, it’s finally time to determine the region’s top high school boys’ and girl’s hockey teams. For the next couple of weeks, both Muskie squads will play their hearts out in the hopes of capturing a NorWOSSA title and a berth at the all-Ontario championships next month. But before I take a closer look at the respective chances of both Fort High teams and offer my predictions, let’s take a minute to re-cap last Thursday’s NorWOSSA court sport playoffs in Dryden. It definitely wasn’t my finest week of prognostication as I went a mediocre 2-2. On the positive side, I correctly tabbed the junior and senior boys’ basketball teams for gold medals. However, I did go a little awry in my girls’ volleyball picks. The junior girls’ struggled with their serving and passing, and lost to the Kenora Broncos in the semi-final—rendering my prediction that they’d face the host Eagles in the final inaccurate. Meanwhile, the senior girls’ exceeded my expectations—playing their most inspired match of the season in defeating the Broncos to advance to the NorWOSSA final against Dryden. Let’s hope this week’s predictions are more accurate. < *c>Boys’ hockey To say the Muskies had a good season in NorWOSSA play would be akin to saying the sun is pretty bright. The black-and-gold (17-0-1) rolled over every challenge they faced en route to an undefeated regular-season record. But what was more impressive than their record was the manner in which they went about their business. The Muskies didn’t just defeat teams—they absolutely demolished them. A quick look at the team’s goals for and against only serves to validate my assertion. The Muskies scored an impressive 109 goals while only surrendering 28 markers—for a ridiculous +81 goal differential. To put that number in perspective, Dryden finished with the league’s second-best goals differential at +13. Unlike in previous years when most of the scoring was done by a handful of players, this year’s squad features a more balanced attack. The Muskies boasted nine scorers in the league’s top 15 during the regular season, including league scoring champ Taylor Jorgenson, Kyle Turgeon, Joe Basaraba, Ryan Witherspoon, George Halverson, Brian Glavish, Matt Hebert and Matt McLellan. As a result of their stellar record, the Muskies clinched top spot and will face the weakest of the three remaining teams—the Kenora Broncos (1-17)—in the first round of the playoffs. This could prove to be one of the most lopsided playoff series of all-time in any sport. The Muskies have trounced the Broncos by scores of 8-0, 12-0, and 11-3 in their last three meetings. I could go on and on about all the ways in which the Muskies are going to dominate Kenora in the best-of-three semi-final, which starts here Friday night, but I think I’ll just stop right here and offer my prediction. In an effort to make what is going to be a dull series more interesting, I’ll add my guess for the combined score of the series. •Prediction: Muskies over Broncos in two-straight games. Muskies outscore the Broncos 21-0 over the course of the series. < *c>Girls’ hockey Unlike in the boys’ series, the Muskie girls will face a challenge if they are to advance to the NorWOSSA ‘AA’ final. The black-and-gold (5-6-1) endured somewhat of a roller-coaster ride this season, particularly in the early stages of the campaign. But that having been said, there are several reasons to believe this could be a special year. The first reason for optimism is that this already has been the most successful campaign in the squad’s six years of NorWOSSA play. The Muskie girls finished in second place for the first time ever and now will have the luxury of home ice advantage during their opening series against the Kenora Broncos (3-8-1), which also gets underway Friday night. The second factor in what potentially could be a long run in the playoffs centres around a decision made by the coaching staff back in January. The decision by Muskie coaches Lynn Kellar and Chris Hill to move offensively-gifted centre Taylor Meyers to the second line alongside Miranda Kellar and Kailey Curtis was a stroke of genius. The line of Meyers, Kellar, and Curtis has provided some much-needed secondary scoring behind that of Lauren Krukoski, Carly Holt, and Cortney Caldwell. The more balanced attack has meant an increase in scoring, which has translated into a more than respectable 9-4 record since Jan. 1. Finally, the Muskie blueline really has stepped up its play in the last month or so. The unit—comprised of Lauren Pierce, Jessica Barker, Erin Kaemingh, Nicki Mosbeck, Anikka McTavish, Kimmy LaFleur, Erika Anderson, and Nina Bird—are forcing opponents to take long-range shots and have done a nice job of limiting opposition scoring chances. Of the group, the three Grade 9 defenders—LaFleur, Anderson and McTavish—have shown the greatest improvement. The three are adjusting nicely to the fast pace of high school hockey. If the Muskies can get consistently solid goaltending from either Sara Trendiak, Katie Stearns, or Sarah Hoskins—something each certainly are capable of—fans of the black-and-gold could be in for an extended playoff run. •Prediction: Muskies over the Broncos in three games.

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