The Muskie girls' hockey team's fitness level is going to be put to the test over the next couple of weeks.
The black-and-gold kicked off a busy stint by playing in the annual Loop Weekend tournament in Thunder Bay over the weekend, where they compiled a 1-2-1 record.
“We were up against some strong competition throughout the weekend and thought we did a good job keeping up with those high-calibre teams,” said head coach Chris Sinclair.
“Both the 'A' and 'AA' Queens were very good teams—and they both should be considering the level of hockey that they play at,” he noted.
“Having said that, I thought we did a good job playing with them and holding our own.”
The third-place Muskies, who currently sport a 2-3-0-1 record in NorWOSSA play, were scheduled to resume league action last night when they hosted the Dryden Eagles (6-1) at the Ice For Kids Arena, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Fort High then will host the first-place St. Thomas Aquinas Saints of Kenora (7-1) tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the “The Duke” (Couchiching Arena) before capping the week with back-to-back road games against the fifth-place Sioux Lookout Warriors (0-5) on Saturday and Sunday.
“We have a busy couple weeks before the exam break coming up,” noted Sinclair.
"We played Dryden yesterday and T.A. on Thursday, then head to Sioux Lookout for two games against them on Saturday and Sunday.
“Then we are back on the road [next] Tuesday against Beaver Brae and Thursday against Dryden,” he added.
"So it's a lot of hockey for the girls in a little amount of time.
“A couple girls have some minor aches but other than that, we are healthy right now,” Sinclair said.
“And staying that way for these next two weeks is going to be big for us as they are all very important games in the NorWOSSA standings,” he stressed.
Given the gruelling schedule, Sinclair said the squad's practices will be more instruction based rather than being fast-paced.
“We need to continue to get better and stronger in our own zone," he noted. ”Getting pucks out of our zone has been a struggle for us at times and has gotten us into trouble defensively.
"So that will be a big area of focus over the next couple weeks, as well as attacking offensively.
“I find that we do a great job forechecking and turning the puck over," Sinclair said. ”But we tend to play and pass the puck around the perimeter of their net a lot.
“We need to go a better job of attacking their goal, and getting pucks and bodies to the net.”
As for last weekend's action in Thunder Bay, the Muskies opened play Friday night with a 3-1 win over the Midget 'C' Fury.
Jill Calder scored twice while Abbie Kenny had the other goal.
It wasn't as easy for the Muskies on Saturday morning, though, as they were blanked 4-0 by the Midget 'A' Queens.
The squad then rebounded that afternoon with a spirited effort in a 1-1 tie with the Confederation College Thunderhawks.
Issy Taylor opened the scoring for the Muskies just 30 seconds into that game but it wasn't enough to pull out the win as the Thunderhawks netted the equalizer in the third period.
Fort High then capped tourney play Sunday morning with a 6-1 loss to the Midget 'AA' Queens.
Kenny had the lone Muskie marker in that one.
“I thought we played relatively well for the most part in Thunder Bay this past weekend,” Sinclair said.
“Am I pleased with [our 1-2-1] record?" he asked. ”I wouldn't say pleased as I thought the game against the college we just weren't ourselves.
“We didn't play very good at all and I feel [it] was a team that we should beat,” Sinclair noted.
“So pleased, no, satisfied—yes.”
Sinclair also said the biggest challenge he feels the Muskies will have moving forward is getting over the hump and finally beating the Saints and Eagles in league play.
“We have proven that we can play with both Dryden and T.A. but we need to find a way to overcome them,” he noted.
"We need to prove to those two teams, and to ourselves, that we can beat them.
“Sticking to our game plan is huge,” Sinclair stressed.
“We need to be well-positioned throughout the ice, take care of our defensive zone, and capitalize on our chances in the offensive zone.”