Given their rash of early-season injuries, the Muskies would have been content with a split against the Red Lake Rams up there last weekend.
But after winning the opener 4-2 on Friday night, the black-and-gold capped off the weekend when Jesse Rodrigues scored with four minutes left in overtime for a spectacular 4-3 comeback victory Saturday afternoon.
Picking up a loose puck at his own blueline, Rodrigues blew past a Ram defenceman down the right side and lifted a shot high over 14-year-old goalie Chris Botterill for the game-winner.
It was a dramatic win for the Muskies, now 3-0 in NorWOSSA play, who battled back from a 3-0 deficit. The comeback started when David Lloyd scored with just one second left in the second period.
Muskie head coach Glen Edwards said it was a turning point in the game.
“That goal turned the game around for us because Red Lake outplayed us for the two periods,” he noted. “It’s funny how the game turned around. It was a big win for us and a good start to the season.”
Still, the Muskies didn’t get off to a very good start Saturday as Shawn Gagne scored twice and defenceman Ryan Picard added another to give the Rams the 3-0 lead midway through the second.
But after Lloyd netted his last-second goal, Jon Lloyd tallied twice in the third—the latter one coming on the power play—to knot the game at 3-3 and set up Rodrigues’ overtime heroics.
The Muskies survived a close call in the third, just after Lloyd scored to make it 3-2, when the Rams rattled a shot off the goalpost behind rookie goalie Blake Carlson.
“I think the big turning point was when they hit the goalpost because I felt if they would have scored that one, it would have been all she wrote,” noted Edwards.
While the Muskies had to pull one out of the fire Saturday, they were mostly in control during Friday’s 4-2 win.
Chris Kellar, who once again was solid on the blueline for the Muskies, opened the scoring at 6:49 of the first, then Jordan Roy added a second-period marker to stake the black-and-gold to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Brad Gushulak scored to make it 3-0 in the third before Chris Eady spoiled Mike Glueheisen’s shutout bid at the 5:36 mark.
Ross Anderson regained the Muskies’ three-goal cushion with just over six minutes to play before Picard closed out the scoring with a late goal.
Edwards said it was an important two-game sweep—especially on the road—which now puts the Muskies in a favourable position early in the season. He also said it’s important for his players to gain confidence they can win in the other team’s building.
“It’s tough to win in Red Lake because it’s a smaller rink than ours,” he noted. “You have to do things quicker there. You have to shoot quicker and make quicker decisions [with the puck] or you’ll get bogged down.
“We outplayed them right from the start Friday but Saturday, in a way, we were fortunate to win the game,” he admitted.
Still, Edwards said he was impressed by the way his troops battled back Saturday as they now prepare to host the Sioux Lookout Warriors in a weekend series Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.)
“The guys kept battling and playing hard but things just weren’t going our way. We had pucks bouncing the wrong way and passes were going off their sticks,” he recalled. “It was just a funny game.”
What wasn’t funny was the Muskie situation on defence, where the black-and-gold found themselves down to just a pair of defenceman at one point due to injuries. But Edwards said the players which were moved back on the point—particularly Kellar and team captain Chuck Arpin—played outstanding under the circumstances.
“We kept [Red Lake’s] shots down, and they weren’t real quality shots, but Mike Glueheisen also played well for us when we needed him,” Edwards enthused.