The Muskie boys’ hockey team is spending their March Break preparing for battle.
The squad leaves Sunday for London, where they will practice Monday and Tuesday before opening action at the all-Ontarios next Wednesday at 7:30 (CST) versus the Orangeville Bears.
The black-and-gold—seeded fourth overall—will play in Pool ‘D.’
After meeting the 13th-seeded Bears, the Muskies next will face the 12th-ranked Leaside Lancers on Wednesday afternoon (1:30 p.m. CST) before taking on the 20th-seeded Fr. John Redmen Redhawks on Thursday at 1:15 p.m. (CST).
Fort High then will wrap up pool play Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (CST) versus the fifth-ranked—and defending champion—Our Lady of Mount Carmel Crusaders from Mississauga.
The top two teams from each pool advance to the quarter-finals, which get underway next Friday. The semi-finals then go Saturday morning, followed by the bronze- and gold-medal games that afternoon.
“It’s going to take a team effort,” said Muskie head coach Shane Bliss. “The first guy to get to the puck is going to be crucial to us.”
The team knows almost nothing about the competition they’ll face at the all-Ontarios—just their season records, which have been posted on OFSAA’s website.
“We just have to go down and play some good hockey,” said Bliss. “We hope it gives us the opportunity to get out of our pool.”
“I’m nervous to see what’s going to happen,” admitted starting goalie Jason Green.
The team has been practising twice a day every day this week, but will take a break from the hard skating Bliss has been putting them through to scrimmage against Hopper’s Bruins—a local men’s team Bliss plays on—today at 5:30 p.m.
All the practice has given the Muskies a chance to hone some of their skills. Monday was for forechecking, for instance, while Tuesday was backchecking. They also will work on their defensive techniques and practice special teams plays.
As they get closer to playing, they will take on shooting and passing drills.
“We need to skate hard and forecheck,” said Green.
“We just want to have fun, play hard,” said team captain Stephen Sus, one of the top scorers for the Muskies.
Sus and his linemates, Justin Larson and David Pierce, racked up 18 points during the NorWOSSA playoffs against Kenora and then Dryden.
“The Sus line has been our biggest scoring line,” noted Bliss.
Since everyone is healthy, the Muskies will be able to dress all 20 players at OFSAA (18 skaters and two goalies).
The St. Michael’s Double Blues are the top seed this year, sporting a record of 45-2-1. Their starting goalie, rookie—Will Ngai—has a 1.10 goals against average, with 11 shutouts in 31 games.
Fort High is the only team in the top five not from the Toronto area. The second seed is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Burlington) while the St. Mary Monarchs (Pickering) are ranked third.