Muskie head coach Glen Edwards said the key to their best-of-three semi-final series with Red Lake, which opens there Friday night, will lie in their ability to "bottle up" the Rams in their own end.
The Rams use an unorthodox offensive system, keeping their forwards precariously high and relying heavily on the fast break.
That game plan has worked so far, enabling the Rams to take three of four games from the Muskies this season en route to a 12-4 record overall--good enough for second place in the NorWOSSA standings.
The Muskies know full well the consequences of giving the Rams the chance to leave their zone on odd-man rushes.
"You have to take notice of the fact they like to break out fast on two-on ones," Edwards said Monday afternoon.
"We worked on [defending] that in practice, and the key is the backside defenceman not allowing their forward to blow out of the zone," he added.
The Rams beat the Muskies 8-5 in their last matchup here back on Jan. 10.
Red Lake boasts four of the league’s top 10 scorers, including scoring leader Aaron Mann, who notched 23 goals and 12 assists in 14 games.
The Rams’ other top snipers on the regular season were Ian Kaczmarek (23 points), Chris Eady (20 points), and Ryan Pickard (18 points).
Edwards admitted his team doesn’t want to get into a wide open, run-and-gun style with Red Lake, choosing instead to concentrate on their defensive play and take advantage when they get the breaks.
"We have to be very patient with Red Lake and contain their fast break," he stressed. "We don’t want to give up a fast goal and we have to convert on our chances."
But while the Muskies are aware of Red Lake’s offensive threat up front, the black-and-gold also sport their share of scoring ability.
Heading into last night’s regular-season finale in Kenora, Aaron Grynol had quietly eased his way into ninth place in league scoring with 11 goals and eight assists in just 12 games.
Grynol, who had six points in a 10-1 win over Sioux Lookout here last week, has been hot as of late centering a line between Dale Jerry and Chris Kellar.
That line, combined with the Frank Redford, Justin Whalen, and David Lloyd one, gives the Muskies two very strong offensive lines up front.
As a team, the black-and-gold have averaged just under five goals a game, second only in offensive production to the league-leading Dryden Eagles, who finished the season at 14-2.
Still, the Muskies will have to contend with the smaller rink in Red Lake, not to mention the five-hour drive up there.
"The smaller rink should help them because they’re bigger and not as quick as us," Edwards noted.
After the series opener Friday night, the second game goes here Sunday at 1 p.m., with game three (if necessary) slated Tuesday, March 3 back in Red Lake.
Dryden has home ice advantage in its best-of-three series with Kenora, which also gets underway Friday.
The two winners will advance to the best-of-three NorWOSSA final slated to start March 6.