The St. Thomas Aquinas Saints of Kenora took all four regular-season meetings against the Muskie girls' hockey team but the black-and-gold are hoping the post-season proves to be a much different story.
The third-place Muskies (8-7-0-1) opened their best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-final series against the second-place Saints (14-2) yesterday afternoon in Kenora, with the outcome not known as of press time.
Game 2 is set for tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice For Kids Arena, with Game 3 (if necessary) back in Kenora on Saturday.
Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair was hopeful his squad finally could prove it has what it takes to beat the Saints when the games really matter.
“This is a team we have seen quite a bit this year and every time we have played each other, they have been really good games,” he noted.
"Although they have won all six times we have played this year, with the exception of one two-goal game, they have all been one-goal games that could have gone either way.
“They are a good team that play at a high pace and skate well. And if you give them room to skate, they will take advantage of it,” he warned.
“We will be preparing for them by watching a little bit of film in previous games against them, as well as focusing on areas that I believe we can be a little better in,” Sinclair added.
Anything can happen in the playoffs so Sinclair said as long as you qualify, you can make some noise.
“Realistically, all the tournaments and exhibition games are essentially practice games,” he reasoned.
“As long as you're not the fifth-place team, you make playoffs and in a best-of-three game series, anything can happen,” he stressed.
“I believe that we have put ourselves in a good spot throughout the regular season," Sinclair lauded. ”We are the underdog team but have proven we are capable of beating them.
Sinclair said Game 1 is going to be key.
“We need to be ready to play and put forth our best 60-minute effort on Tuesday,” he conceded.
“We have gotten better and better as the season has progressed, but now it is time to put everything we have learned together and leave it all on the ice.”
The Muskies head into the playoffs after routing the Sioux Lookout Warriors 16-0 in their NorWOSSA regular-season finale last Tuesday night at the Ice For Kids Arena to finish in third place in the five-team league.
Makenna Henttonen scored four times and Jill Calder notched a hat trick to pace the onslaught.
Henttonen added two assists as part of a five-point night while Calder had four helpers for seven points to help the black-and-gold sweep the four-game regular-season series against the last-place Warriors (0-16).
Issy Taylor and Calder both tallied on the Muskies' first two power plays in the first period.
Calder, Alex Gartzke, Henttonen, Abbie Kenny, and Ashlyn Beck then lit the lamp to make it 7-0 after 20 minutes.
Henttonen (three), Kathryn Fischer, Kianna Antonick, Emily Kaun, and Calder all bulged the twine in the second period to make it 14-0 after 40 minutes.
Tatum Glowasky then did some nice work down low and took the puck to the Warriors' net, where Martina Woods was able to bury the rebound to up it to 15-0 early in third.
Gartzke unloaded a slapshot from the high slot later in the frame after a feed from Henttonen to cap the scoring.
Jersey Masson wasn't tested often in earning the shutout.
Sinclair stressed the importance of his players not getting into bad habits and still putting in a solid effort against the lowly Warriors.
“I thought we played well against Sioux North to end the season," he remarked. ”It was important that we didn't get into bad habits and we played the game at our level as we need to get ready for playoffs.
“In games like those, it's really important that we focus on puck movement,” Sinclair stressed.
"I thought we did a good job of moving the puck around, both in our defensive zone to get down the ice and in the offensive zones.
“I thought we did a good job moving our feet to get to open ice to make some really nice plays,” he enthused.