The Muskie girls’ hockey team earned more than just a passing grade en route to a silver-medal win at their home tournament over the weekend.
“We’re a young team so it takes time to establish ourselves, but we had five games to see where we’re at and it went well,” Muskie coach Mel Langtry said.
The only blemish came Sunday afternoon when the black-and-gold fell 3-1 to the Pembina Tigers in the tournament final after winning their first four games to get there.
The visitors jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
Muskie captain Erika Anderson scored on an unassisted effort with nine minutes to play to close the gap, but the deficit was just too steep to overcome by that point.
“We didn’t show up in the first two periods, and they had a really good player in the back who got two beautiful goals on us,” Langtry noted.
Dryden beat Kenora in the bronze-medal game.
The Muskies had opened preliminary robin play Friday afternoon with a sound 5-2 win over St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora).
Fort High struck first just four minutes in when Jillian Langtry slammed home a pass from Shae-Lynn Smith.
Danielle Jean drew the other assist.
The rest of the period went scoreless until Dixon connected on a Langtry pass with just 19 seconds before intermission to give the hosts a two-goal cushion heading to the second.
Jesse Baker made it 3-0 early in the second, with Dixon assisting.
After the Saints got one back, Jean put the home side back up by three on a breakaway that completed a three-way passing play between herself, Smith, and Langtry.
Courtney Easton netted the Muskies’ final goal in the third to round out the scoring.
Melissa Payne earned the win between the pipes.
The Muskies then continued their fine play Friday night, with a big crowd on hand to see a 2-0 blanking of Red Lake.
“Really good crowd for that one, breast cancer awareness night,” Coach Langtry enthused.
“We had really big crowds and these kids haven’t played in front of crowds like that, so there were probably some nerves and that was kind of showing in the first part of the games, but as it went on they settled in,” he added.
After a scoreless opening period against the Rams, Carlee Bosma struck for the game’s first goal early in the second.
Langtry added another before the end of the period, with Dana Cridland then putting the clamps down in goal to record the shutout.
On Saturday morning, the black-and-gold faced off against the eventual-champion Tigers and claimed a narrow 3-2 win.
Langtry set the tone early with a goal just over a minute in, and that 1-0 score remained held up until early in the third when Pembina notched the equalizer.
Baker put the Muskies back out in front six minutes into the final period on a pass from Kimmy LaFleur, and then with Pembina’s goalie pulled in the dying minutes, Langtry scooped up a pass from Smith and netted an insurance marker into the empty cage.
Pembina did score with 11 seconds left, but it was too-little-too-late.
Fort High then wrapped up preliminary play with an offensive explosion Saturday night, routing the Miller Aces of Altona, Man. 7-2.
The line of Baker, Dixon, and Alyssa Penner had the hot hand in this one, combining for five goals and five assists.
Baker and Dixon each netted two goals and an assist while Penner had a goal and three helpers.
Langtry and Smith tallied the other Muskie goals.
The black-and-gold outshot the Aces 38-19 in the landslide win.
“You could sure see some improvements as we went along,” Coach Langtry said. “It sure seemed to come together in the night game against the Miller Aces.”
The penalty kill got plenty of action during the five-game weekend. And although discipline is a concern if penalties continue to pile up, the Muskies must be commended for the way they limited the damage when down a player.
“There was one instance where we chased the puck behind the net and left the front unoccupied, which ended up in our goal,” Muskie co-coach Rudy Anderson said.
“We’ve got to be patient in those situations because they can’t do anything with it if you out-wait them,” he reasoned.
Despite the setback in Sunday’s final for the young squad, both Langtry and Anderson believe the sky is the limit for this team.
“Always have high expectations,” Langtry stressed. “They might be young but there’s a little bit of experience there still.
“We’re hoping to be competitive every game we go out,” he added. “We want the crowds to come so we want to put a show on for them.”
Langtry said a focus of practice heading into this weekend’s tournament in Winnipeg will be focused on individual skills.
“With a young team, our biggest thing is our puck control, passing,” he explained. “Our individual skills have to improve to play at a higher speed level, and that’s what we’re working on in practice.”
A new wrinkle in the NorWOSSA schedule this season will see the Muskies play home-and-home series with St. Thomas Aquinas, Red Lake, and Sioux Lookout.
Meetings with Dryden and Kenora will be reduced to four games apiece, as opposed to six in previous seasons.
Langtry called it a welcome change to keep things fresh through a long season.
The squad opens NorWOSSA play Friday, Nov. 13 against the host Kenora Broncos.
In related news, the Muskie boys’ hockey team is in Dryden this weekend for a season-opening tournament.