The Muskie boys' hockey team have been able to see what it's truly made of lately.
Fort High was able to dig deep and find the offence needed to pull out a thrilling 5-4 win over the Baudette Bears in exhibition action on Tuesday night at the Ice For Kids Arena.
With the game tied at 4-4 with less than a minute to go, Peyton Avis made a slick behind-the-back pass to linemate Jacob Albright.
Albright then calmly potted the winner upstairs on Bears' goalie Riley Stromlund with 54 seconds remaining—much to the delight of the home crowd.
“It was great to see everyone battle right to the very end and not quit on each other,” said Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair.
"With the exception of our first games against Thunder Bay, that was the first time we've needed that urgency in our game, and I thought the team handled it well.
“Everyone was staying positive despite having only a little time to go,” he noted.
“We were able to capitalize on our chances and tie it up late in the game, which gave us a little more energy, and were able to carry that on to get the win in regulation.”
Jace Jackson opened the scoring for the Muskies 6:06 into the first period with a bit of a lucky one as he fooled Stromlund with a high dump-in that bounced a few times before finding its way into the back of the net.
Jackson Lebrasseur evened it for Baudette just 53 seconds into the second as he sprung free on a breakaway and fired a shot over Muskie goalie Darian Klem's glove.
Kaden Kocuiba gave the Muskies the lead again just a few minutes later as he finished off a feed from Brady Bodnarchuk and Albright.
Ashton Cousineau then corralled a pass in front from Peyton Avis before deking to his backhand and roofing a shot over Stromlund with 9:06 to go to make it 3-1.
But Kajun Krause made it a one-goal game less than three minutes later as he received a pass from Blake Ferris shortly after a Muskie turnover in their own zone and deposited a shot past Klem.
Connor Ivall then knotted it at three-all near the five-minute mark of the third as he calmly received a lengthy stretch-pass from Anson Haack and snapped a bullet of a shot by Klem.
“I thought they were a very good skating team, they played with speed and skill,” Sinclair said of the Bears.
"And when you play a team like that who is quick on transition, it's important to limit your turnovers and making sure the puck gets deep in the offensive zone when you have the chance.
“That game was a prime example of how important moving the puck is,” he stressed.
“We had success when we were playing as a unit, moving the puck and getting ourselves into open ice. We ran into trouble when we tried doing a little too much individually.”
Muskie captain Reed Bodnar appeared to have given Fort High the lead again with 7:13 to go but his goal didn't end up counting as teammate Mikel Ward was assessed a double-minor for spearing on the play.
Jackson then was whistled for cross-checking which gave the Bears a lengthy two-man advantage.
Baudette made the Muskies pay for their undisciplined play as Gunner Ferrier buried a feed from Lebrasseur past the left side of Klem to make it 4-3 with 3:50 remaining.
But with Jack Wood sitting for interference shortly after, the Muskies made good on a power-play opportunity of their own as Ward got some redemption by burying a feed from Bodnar into the open side to knot it at 4-4 with 1:13 to go.
“I thought we played our best hockey at the later stages in the game,” Sinclair lauded.
“We needed to play with desperation to tie the game and I thought the guys did a great job at embracing that.”
The Muskies next will be in action tomorrow at the Victoria Inns tournament in Brandon, Man.
Sinclair is expecting his squad to face more tight games at the tourney and believes the game against Baudette was a good lesson for the Muskies to see what it takes to persevere.
“I think it was very beneficial for us to have a game like that, especially heading to Brandon this weekend,” he remarked.
"We are going to Brandon with high expectations to come home with a medal. There are 24 teams so, yes, it is going to be tough to accomplish.
“But the group of guys we have in the room are highly motivated and want to have success,” he reasoned.
“I think the game against Baudette was a good test and a good preparation game for us, to show us what it's going to take to achieve that goal.”