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Muskie girls shaky in opener

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Rarely has a six-goal playoff win inspired such a host of long faces.

The atmosphere was far from festive in and around the Muskie girls’ hockey team’s dressing room last night despite its 9-3 win over the visiting Sioux Lookout Warriors in Game 1 of their best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-final series.

“That was not our best effort, top to bottom,” conceded Muskie head coach Todd Hamilton.

“[Sioux Lookout] came to play, they played good, and we didn’t,” he noted.

“Hockey is about will and skill and without the will, you’re not going to have a positive outcome.”

The visitors held the Muskies without a goal for almost the first eight minutes last night.

Annalise Hayes finally kick-started the Muskie offence by one-timing home Muskie captain Rachel Jean’s centreing pass for a 1-0 lead.

Avery Cates later tapped a rebound in before Siobhan Mackintosh jammed home the puck to make it 3-0.

Jean then put away a loose puck during a scramble in front of the Warriors’ net with 51 seconds left in the period.

“We could have played way better,” admitted Jean, who finished with a hat trick as part of a five-point night.

“Our passing was a little off . . . [but] we won, so bonus.

“I think we underestimated them a little bit,” she conceded.

“It was a good wake-up call and we’ll take things more seriously in Game 2.”

Taylor Croswell opened a three-goal outburst in the second period when she powered her way off the right-wing boards to roof a shot.

“I just walked out, saw I had a shot, and picked a spot,” noted Croswell, who finally hit paydirt after Warriors’ goalie Alex Morin stopped her cold on breakaways in both the first and second periods.

Mackintosh netted her second goal on a missile that hit the crossbar, then the catching glove of Morin, before dribbling over the goal line.

Sioux Lookout, which only scored once in its four-game season series with the Muskies, capitalized on Croswell’s hooking penalty when Sydney MacDonald fired a quick shot from the left circle past Sydney Beck.

After Jean made it 7-1, the Warriors went into the second intermission on a high note when Savannah Kirton forced a turnover in the neutral zone, who then broke in alone and ripped one past Beck stick side.

Jean capped her hat trick just nine seconds into the third—speeding around three Warriors before deking Morin and tucking the puck home.

After Beck made her best stop of the night off MacDonald on a 3-on-1, the Muskies zipped the puck around the perimeter before Jean made a touch pass in front to Hayes, who wasted no time pounding the puck into the back of the net.

That spelled the end of a heroic night for Morin, whose incredible 69-save performance kept the score respectable.

Kyla Kulchyski came on in relief and turned away all 14 Muskie shots she faced.

“Their goalies are always super good,” noted Muskie forward Lauren Hamilton.

The Warriors closed out the scoring when Kirton outraced Sara Jackson to a dump-in and executed a textbook wraparound on Beck.

“We play Sioux Lookout this way every time,” noted Croswell.

“We didn’t do bad, but we play down to their level and we all know it.”

Game 2 goes tomorrow in Sioux Lookout, with Game 3 (if necessary) slated back here Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the ’52 Canadians Arena.

“We don’t have to win 15-0 every time, but we’ve got to have a consistent effort and tonight, we didn’t have it,” noted Todd Hamilton.

In related news, the Dryden Eagles blanked the visiting St. Thomas Aquinas Saints 4-0 in Game 1 of their semi-final series last night.

Game 2 goes tomorrow in Kenora.

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