The coaching staff for the Muskie boys' hockey team looks vastly different as the black-and-gold prepares to head into a new NorWOSSA season.
After spending last year at the helm of the Muskie girls' squad, Chris Sinclair will be taking the reins from Jordan Sinclair to lead the Muskie boys.
Joining Chris Sinclair behind the boys' bench this year are assistants Tyler Miller and Kyle Turgeon, with Turgeon moving over from behind the girls' bench as well.
“It's going to be a change for sure,” said Chris Sinclair.
"Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed coaching the girls team and I'm going to miss coaching them, and had Jordan not stepped away from the boys' team, I would still be there.
“It was a tough decision for me to make the change over, but I am definitely excited for this new challenge and new opportunity in my coaching career,” he noted.
“I know the girls are in good hands with their new coaching staff of Nicole Clarke, Dylan Grinsell, and Jon Carlson, along with Amy Penner, who was an assistant last year, which made my decision a little easier to hand it over.”
One of the biggest changes on the boys' bench is going to be absence of long time assistant coach Ken Christansen. “Keno” has decided it was time step away from coaching.
“I think it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge everything he has done over the past 50 some years with the program and the kids who have done it,” Sinclair lauded.
“I think I can speak on behalf of everyone by saying his dedication and passion to the Muskie program is truly appreciated.”
As for the Muskie boys' roster, it will mostly look the same as last year with 17 of the 20 players being in either Grade 11 or 12.
The returning seniors include Jace Jackson, Sheldon Kelly, Reed Bodnar (who spent last year with the Kenora Midget 'AAA' Thistles), Connor Nelson, Carson Noga, Brady Bodnarchuk, Nick Gurski, Mikel Ward, Darian Klem, Jaxon Gartzke, Jace Dittaro, Declan Webb, Ashton Cousineau, Jaden Cooper, and Peyton Avis.
The senior newcomers are Kaden Kocuiba and Jacob Albright.
Grade 10s Josh Ward and Darnell Kempf, who were affiliate players last season, are the returning juniors, along with Nolan Mann.
“We have a very experienced team, which is something you can't teach,” Sinclair stressed.
"We are excited Reed has decided to come back home for another season wearing black-and-yellow and will be a big part of our team.
“So of the five new faces on the team, we essentially only have two. Both Kaden Kocuiba and Jacob Albright are grade 12 students who bring size, strength, and a very good work ethic,” he lauded.
“Both play with a hard nosed game with speed and I believe will both have success at the high school level.”
Sinclair feels as though one the Muskies' biggest strengths this season will be their motivation.
“I know the Muskies have been at the top of the standings for the past several years, but the last two years, they have unfortunately lost in the NorWOSSA finals and have not had the opportunity to attend OFSAA,” he noted.
"Of our 20 man roster, only Mikel Ward has played at the OFSAA level, when Fort Frances hosted. Most of these kids are second or third year players and they all have that sour taste of losing out and not representing at OFSAA.
“So, I believe that all the kids in the room are motivated and will do whatever it takes to not have to go through that feeling again,” Sinclair predicted.
The Muskies will get their first taste of game action this weekend as they host the Thunder Bay Minor Kings in a three-game exhibition series.
The opener is slated for Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena), with Game 2 to go that night at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
Both sides then will conclude the series on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at the '52 Canadians Arena.
Fort High then will open the NorWOSSA regular season on the road against the Kenora Broncos on Nov. 12.
“This weekend is going to be great for us as Thunder Bay always has a highly competitive team,” said Sinclair.
"We are using this weekend to prepare for our upcoming NorWOSSA season, starting on Nov. 12 when we play our first game in Kenora versus Beaver Brae.
“I think it's great to have this opportunity as it allows us to transfer our systems into a game,” he reasoned.
"It's one thing to practice them, but to apply them in a game against a strong team is only going to help us identify areas of strengths and areas that we need to improve on to be ready for NorWOSSA league play and, obviously, a key focus of this weekend is going to be staying healthy.
“We want everyone ready and able to play our first league game,” Sinclair stressed.