The St. Thomas Aquinas Saints cared little for the Muskie girls' hockey team's early-season success.
The visitors handed the Muskies their first loss of the NorWOSSA season with a 4-2 decision at the '52 Canadians Arena last Tuesday night in Fort High's annual “Teddy Bear Toss” game.
It's now all up to the Muskies (2-1) to dictate how they'll rebound from their first loss of the season as they move forward in league play.
“I think we really need to focus on persevering when times are tough,” stressed Muskie head coach Nicole Clarke.
"Although the girls remained positive, it's not easy coming from behind and it's difficult to continue to play with the intensity that we started the game with.
“I think the girls will learn to really persevere and bounce back quickly when we're down,” she added.
The Muskies got their first taste of adversity early in last Tuesday's game here as Chloe Skead opened the scoring just 1:45 into the first period as she cut wide around the Muskie defence on the right side and buried a low shot past Muskie goalie Jersey Masson.
Hailey Bombay knotted it at one piece near the three-minute mark when she deflected home Jill Calder's point shot that sent the teddy bears raining down onto the ice.
Tatum Glowasky then fired home a pass from Ashlyn Beck past the right of Saints' goalie Faith Reid on a 2-on-1 chance at the eight-minute mark to put the Muskies ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes.
“Although frustrated, the girls continued to show a positive attitude on the bench,” Clarke lauded.
“They tried really hard to keep a positive mindset and provide each other with feedback.”
In the second, McKenna Isfeld buried the rebound of Seanna Derouard's shot with 11:56 go to help St. Thomas Aquinas even it at two apiece.
Abbie Favreau gave the Saints their first lead of the night with 3:10 remaining as she made good on a power play opportunity before also finding the back of the net with seven seconds left to make it 4-2 for the visitors after 40 minutes.
Neither side could score in a physical final frame as the Saints (2-0 heading into last night) earned their second win of the season and moved past the Muskies for first place in the NorWOSSA standings.
“They didn't give up, they kept battling and the score was a result of a couple of bounces not going our way,” Clarke reasoned.
“I was impressed with the girls' play and we will continue to build on it.”
Clarke also felt that Masson played a strong game between the pipes for the Muskies and that the score could have been worse without her steadying presence behind them.
“I thought Jersey played a great game. The score could have been different but she really did keep us in it,” she lauded.
“We preach to the girls about pressuring the puck and sometimes we overcommitted, which sometimes resulted in their team being able to walk out and get a shot off.”
The black-and-gold next are in action this Friday and Saturday when they head to Winnipeg for the PCI Saints' Christmas Classic tournament.
Then they'll host the Rainy River Community College Voyageurs next Monday (Dec. 9) at 4 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“We're going to focus on using our speed to our advantage and working more on positioning, specifically in battles in our own end,” Clarked said of her team's upcoming practices.
"Like I said in the T.A. game, sometimes we overcommit in our zone, which allows their girls to walk out with the puck.
“I've said before I am really confident in our goaltending this season, so if we can work on winning battles and positioning ourselves to eliminate their high percentage shots, I think we will continue to do well,” she reasoned.
"The team has really come together. We are a tight knit group that's only going to get stronger.
“The girls have really bonded and share their love for the game, which has been great for the energy on the bench and really building each other up” Clarke noted.
Fort High won't resume NorWOSSA action again until Tuesday, Dec. 17 when they face the host Sioux Lookout Warriors (1-0 heading into last night) for the first time this season.