For pure determination, “The Terminator” has nothing on the Muskie girls’ hockey team.
The black-and-gold may have bid their NorWOSSA arch-rivals “hasta la vista” after Annalise Hayes’ second goal of the game with nine seconds to go completed a heart-stopping rally from a 4-2 deficit for a thrilling 5-4 comeback victory over the host Dryden Eagles on Sunday.
Fort High (10-1) now leads Dryden (9-3-0-1) by one point atop the league standings.
But the Muskies sit in the driver’s seat—having two games in hand and their final five regular-season games coming against teams they are a combined 7-0 against and have outscored 86-1.
“It was a good way to close out the season series against Dryden,” said a coarse-voiced Muskie head coach Todd Hamilton, who wasn’t letting a day-after cold get him down after his team rallied the previous night from two separate two-goal deficits in the third period.
“We kept pushing the pace and put a strong forecheck on, and it paid off,” he noted.
Dryden led 3-1 entering the third period on goals by Jess Carter, Leah Balla, and McKenna Corvello against Muskie goalie Sydney Beck.
Hayes had the lone Muskie goal—steaming into the Eagles’ zone before rocketing a shot past Eagles’ goalie Jacquie Grandmont at 4:43 of the second.
With 2:10 gone in the third, Sam McKinnon ripped a bullet from the blueline that found the back of the net to close the gap to 3-2.
Lindy Leclerc restored the Eagles’ two-goal lead soon after, but Hamilton looked at his bench and saw the furthest thing from a group full of quitters.
“It was a bit of an odd goal as it was a wrist shot that arced in that Sydney didn’t see,” he noted.
“The girls just told each other it was back to the drawing board and they didn’t fall apart.”
Chief among the black-and-gold believers were rookies Kelsey Langtry and Hanna LeDrew, who showed a veteran sense of timing.
The pair set up Emma Noga at 4:56 of the third to pull Fort High to within 4-3.
Langtry then notched the equalizer with 4:24 left—finishing off a set-up from LeDrew and McKinnon by putting the puck over the outstretched pad of Grandmont.
“We chatted with the team before the game that we were going to roll the lines for this game from the drop of the puck to the very end,” said Hamilton, who kept his younger forwards tied to the bench in the latter stages of the three previous games against Dryden.
“I think having them out there more helped us stay fresh as the third period went on,” he reasoned.
“Good for Kelsey and Hanna,” Hamilton added. “They got full-time minutes and did well with them.”
When it came time for the Muskies to finish the job, they did it without much left.
Hayes was falling near the face-off circle but managed to unleash a backhander over Grandmont’s shoulder before crashing to the ice.
It was nothing new for Hayes, who has scored multiple late-game winners this season, including the tying and winning goals in the Muskies’ season-opening win over the Eagles at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about since the Falls’ game [an 8-4 loss to the host International Falls Broncos on Jan. 26] is starting to shoot the puck more,” noted Hamilton.
“If we get an opportunity to shoot the puck, we have to shoot it,” he said.
“Annalise got a couple of whacks at it and it happened to go in.”
It now would be easy for the Muskies to look past their final regular-season opponents, who they’ve handled without trouble so far this season, and consider first place in the proverbial puck bag.
Hamilton said maintaining motivation among his players will be of utmost importance heading down the stretch.
“We’re going to go one game at a time, as it should be,” stressed Hamilton, whose team played the first of three-straight games against the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints last night in Kenora (score unavailable at press time).
The second game goes tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. at the ’52 Canadians Arena, with the third one then set for next Tuesday (Feb. 9) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.