Muskie girls’ squad to ice experience
Circumstances out of their control prevented the Muskie girls’ hockey team from having a shot at provincial glory last season.
With the extra-curricular world of high school sports back to spinning on its proper axis, that quest becomes a legitimate reality for this one.
Last year’s labour strife involving teachers province-wide saw athletics at schools across Ontario mostly come to a screeching halt.
The black-and-gold made what they could out of the abbreviated season, which culminated with 1-0 and 5-1 defeats of the Kenora Broncos in the two-game, total-goal final series for the “Northland Cup.”
“Technically, that normally would have given us the right to go to OFSAA,” noted Clendenning.
“We’ve already talked about how we have to continue from where we left off last year,” he added.
“What happened with OFSAA [last year] happened. We have to go into this season with the same energy we brought into the final against Kenora.
“We want to be [at OFSAA],” Clendenning stressed.
This year’s Muskie squad boasts a wealth of battle-tested players who understand what it takes to handle the NorWOSSA grind.
Fourteen of the 17 players, including five Grade 12s, were full-time Muskies last season. That includes nine of the 10 forwards, three of the five blueliners, and both goalies.
Grade 10 forward Rachel Jean will be the only new face up front.
She will join Grade 12s Katie Sinclair, Hailey Clendenning, Shelby Tymkin, and Shiloh Beck, as well as Grade 11s Kaily Greengrass, Amber Jourdain, Amy Penner, Claire Sandelovich, and Jessica Coran.
“We’ve got a high-energy group up front that plays a very aggressive style of game,” noted Scott Clendenning.
“That group has been together for pretty much three years now,” he said. “They have to understand the expectations that they need to play the way they can play.
“I’ve been encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone and try some new things.”
On defence, 12th-grader Sarah Milling will lead a crew that includes fellow veterans in 11th-graders Mallory Payne and Alexis Perreault, Grade 10 practice squad graduate Sam McKinnon, and the lone Grade 9 on the regular roster, Lauren Vold.
That group may grow if Clendenning decides to shift one or more forwards to the back end.
“It’s a good puck-moving group and a big, strong defensive corps,” he remarked.
“We definitely want to get our defence into the offence,” he added. “We want to bring it up a notch this season, and get the defence more involved in the game and have that fourth person moving up to make plays.”
Between the pipes, Fort High appears to be in good hands with the Grade 11 combination of third-year player Calie Clendenning and second-year veteran Kate Parsons.
“Both of them are solid and I know I can count on either one of them,” Scott Clendenning said about his butterfly-style netminders, whom he intends to rotate on a regular basis from game to game.
The Muskies, meanwhile, will have a practice roster for the second-consecutive season, with Sydney Johnson, Riley Redford, and Emma Noga occupying the three available spots.
“It’s a great thing to have,” stressed Clendenning. “It helps us develop younger players and still get them into the lineup for a game or two.
“They can practice with us and possibly get into a NorWOSSA or tournament game,” he noted.
“And any of them could move up to the main roster if there is an injury or somebody becomes academically ineligible.”
Clendenning isn’t certain what kind of talent his squad will be up against in a NorWOSSA circuit that includes the Broncos, Dryden Eagles, Red Lake Rams, Sioux Lookout Warriors, and St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora).
What he does know for sure is how enjoyable—and how beneficial—the team’s clashes will be with a selection of Minnesota-based opponents in exhibition play throughout the season.
“I enjoy getting games with International Falls, Baudette, Detroit Lakes, and Silver Bay,” he remarked.
“It’s fun to play them and it’s great for player development.”
The Muskies also will tackle a different challenge in late November when they play a two-game set against the highly-reputed Thunder Bay Queens Midget ‘AA’ team.
“I’m interested to go down there and see where we stand against them,” Clendenning said.
“We want to push the girls to the [highest] level that they can be.”
Fort High opens the season Oct. 24-27 in Winnipeg for the Sturgeon Heights tournament, then will host their annual home tourney the following weekend (Nov. 1-3).
The Muskies’ NorWOSSA campaign begins Nov. 21 here against Beaver Brae.