Even though the Muskies still haven’t played half of their schedule, there was no doubt last weekend’s doubleheader in Sioux Lookout was critical to their playoff chances.
A pair of losses would have entrenched the black-and-gold in the NorWOSSA cellar. A pair of wins, on the other hand, would have vaulted them into a tie for third place.
The Muskies chose to do the latter.
Outshooting the Warriors by a sizable margin in both games, the Muskies earned a 7-2 win Friday night, then a 6-5 decision Saturday afternoon to sit at 3-4 heading into the Christmas break.
That leaves the black-and-gold tied with Kenora at six points, trailing front-running Dryden and second-place Red Lake.
“[Goalie Adrian] Indian played pretty well for us in both games but we outshot them big time in both games,” said head coach Glen Edwards.
“We had over 40 shots in both of them while their shot total was in the low 20s,” he noted.
The Muskies had been having trouble generating an offensive attack from their third and fourth lines. But that changed last weekend as six different players found the twine, led by Jordan Roy’s four-goal effort over the two games.
Edwards said the offensive production from all four lines, which he said were able to play a “quick, up-tempo” game, was the key to the wins.
“We had all four lines playing real well. And I don’t want to single out one line but the Armstrong line [with Roy and Chuck Arpin Jr.] had a good weekend,” he added.
“That whole line is a solid checking unit," he noted. "I usually have Armstrong on the other team’s top line. He’s probably our best checker and he’s a good positional player.”
Although the trio began the season together, it is a relatively new combination that seemed to gel right from the beginning of Friday’s game.
After a slow start, Roy jump-started the Muskies with a pair of goals to stake them out to a 2-0 lead after the first period.
Then after the Warriors’ Jay Windego sliced the lead to 2-1 early in the second, the Muskies netted three-straight goals from Aaron Grynol (two) and Jesse Rodrigues to jump out to a commanding 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Sioux Lookout made it 5-2 before Nathan Mihichuk and Dave Bond iced the victory with goals in the third.
But the key to the weekend was the second game of the series Saturday afternoon, which Edwards said was a “must-win” situation for his team.
“We had to have those two wins. If we didn’t get them, we were in trouble as far as making the playoffs,” he stressed.
While the Muskies were able to squeak out a slim 6-5 victory, Edwards said it was a “frustrating” game in the sense that the Muskies dominated throughout. But three power-play goals kept Sioux Lookout in the contest.
“We played most of [the game] in their end but we just had a few breakdowns on our part in our end,” he added.
After Sioux lookout jumped out to a 1-0 lead, Roy tied the game, assisted by Bond and Arpin, and then Grynol scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season to give the Muskies a 2-1 lead.
The Warriors tied the score on a goal by Dave McLanders but Roy netted his second of the period to give the Muskies a 3-2 margin through one.
Kevin Ariano scored a pair to make it 4-3 for the Warriors in the second before Rodrigues tied things back up. Then Lloyd tallied with 32 seconds left in the period for a 5-4 Muskie lead after two.
Dale Jerry made it 6-4 at 4:57 of the third. McLanders scored his second of the game with 5:31 to play but the Warriors couldn’t get the equalizer.
The Muskies next play their annual Boxing Day matchup against an alumni squad, slated for 1 p.m. at Memorial Arena (admission is free).
They they will play in the Falls holiday tournament slated Dec. 29-31. Kenora and Dryden are the other two teams competing there this year.