A new season brings new hope for the Muskie boys' hockey team.
The black-and-gold were denied an 11th-straight trip to OFSAA last season when they lost 4-3 in double-overtime to the Sioux Lookout Warriors in the third-and-deciding game of the NorWOSSA final here back in March.
It was the first league title for the Warriors and Muskie head coach Jordan Sinclair knows they will be the favourites heading into this season.
“I think our approach to this season has to be, first of all, to get right back on the wagon and get to work,” he remarked.
"Come to work every day with a good attitude and good effort, have a chip on our shoulder, and embrace the underdog role.
“Sioux [Lookout] has to be the favorite," Sinclair added. "They come in as the champs and will remain so until someone is able to knock them off.”
With just seven returning players, the Muskies will have a more youthful look this season.
The returnees include Grade 12 defencemen Austin Armstrong and Jace Jackson, Grade 12 forward Jake Barker, Grade 11 forwards Mike Ward and Cole Magill, Grade 11 defenceman Connor Nelson, and Grade 10 goalie Darian Klem.
Last year's affiliate players—forwards Matt Spence, Ashton Cousineau, and Peyton Avis, defencemen Jace Dittaro and Declan Webb, and goalie Jaden Cooper—all will see increased roles with the squad.
New to the Muskies this season are Grade 12 forward Sheldon Kelly, Grade 11 forwards Ryan Redford, Carson Noga, Nick Gurskie, and Braden Bodnarchuk, Grade 11 defenceman Jake Grisnell, and Grade 9 forward Nolan Mann.
“Our returning players will be very important for us, as they always are,” Sinclair stressed.
"[They are] another year older, with a year more experience, [and] they will be looked to for leadership and direction from the younger players.
“We have a lot of new faces this year and have a very young group, ” he conceded.
"I think some of the players that were able to get in a few games last year will have that be beneficial to them, and us, no doubt.
“Ultimately, though, it will come down to the buy-in of the players as to how well they will fit into the structure of the team and the way we want to play,” Sinclair said.
The Muskies originally were slated to open the NorWOSSA regular season at home last night against the Kenora Broncos, but the game was rescheduled to Dec. 15 (the time and venue will be announced at a later date).
Instead, the black-and-gold will head to Warroad, Mn. on Saturday for some exhibition games before opening the season on the road next Tuesday (Nov. 20) against the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints in Kenora.
“I haven't seen their roster this year but I know they had a young group last season, so I would expect them to be that much better this year with more experience,” Sinclair said of the Saints.
“They have good goaltending so no doubt it will be a good test for us.”
As for the goals for his squad this season, Sinclair said their first is to develop and get better each day, and to come together as a team so they can be the most effective.
“I like to have short-term goals myself to keep in focus," he noted. ”Things like 'winning the week,' which is to win more games than you lose each week so you always have a goal a focus and something you're trying to achieve.
“I've been happy with practises so far," Sinclair added. ”We are right about where I thought we would be but there is definite improvement noticeable each day.
“Our energy has been good," he remarked. ”The guys are really having a good time and seem to be coming together nicely as a team.
“Our strengths are going to have to be our skating and our relentlessness on the puck,” Sinclair said.
“We need to be doing these things if we are going to be successful.”