If a month-and-a-half of practice wasn’t enough for the Muskie boys’ hockey team to be ready to play Tuesday night, the unexpected reappearance of their head coach and his partner definitely was.
Jamie Davis was in his customary position behind the Muskie bench—and his squad gave him and team videographer Alyssa Vanderaa a king-sized homecoming gift with a 10-2 rout of the host Dryden Eagles in the NorWOSSA regular-season opener for both squads.
Davis and Vanderaa left the team late last month to deal with the unexpected loss of their infant daughter, Addilyn.
But for the both of them, Tuesday marked the start of the next chapter in their lives.
“We’ve seen better days and there’s been some bad days, but we’re taking it day by day,” said Davis.
“We’re getting better,” he added.
“I asked [Vanderaa] if she wanted to go and she said yes, so I said, ‘Let’s go, then.’”
Davis watched his team fall behind 1-0, then ignite a keg of offensive dynamite on an Eagles’ team that had pushed the eight-time defending champs to the limit in the NorWOSSA final last season.
“Dryden always gets better as the season wears on,” warned Davis.
“I was surprised by the score, but I think it was a case of the wheels just fell off the bus for Dryden,” he remarked.
“We got better as the game went on.”
Matt Cheetham, who started the season with the Fort Frances Lakers but decided to return for one final campaign with the black-and-gold, netted a hat trick to pace the attack.
Cam Gushulak scored twice, including a short-handed equalizer for the Muskies’ first goal, while Sullivan Shortreed also tallied twice.
Even more satisfying to Davis was the play of the rookie trio Cooper Witherspoon, Jon Busch, and Jake Clendenning—all of whom scored their first career NorWOSSA goals Tuesday night.
“The young guys are exciting to be around,” said Davis.
“They’re full of jam and they’re a lot of fun.”
Davis also lauded the play of starting goalie Dylan Ossachuk, who figures to see plenty of work in his Grade 12 season with his back-up being Grade 9 newcomer Matt Booth.
“[Ossachuk] played well and made the saves when he had to,” said Davis.
“That’s why he’s in there.”
But if an eight-goal win over Dryden wasn’t enough to send chills through the rest of their league foes, Davis was clear this is only the beginning.
“We’ve got lots to learn and we’re a long way from where we want to be,” he stressed.
“We’re making steps in the right direction.”
The Muskies will host the Sioux Lookout Warriors in their first NorWOSSA action on home ice this Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s game will go at 7:15 p.m. in the Ice For Kids Arena at 7:15 p.m., with Saturday’s clash set for 3:45 p.m. at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Fort High then will host the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora) on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at the IFK Arena.