Less than 24 hours after clinching a playoff spot with a 3-0 win over the Sudbury Wolves, the Soo Greyhounds looked to continue their success of late against another hot team in the North Bay Battalion.
A third-period goal by Brett McKenzie lifted the Battalion to a 2-1 victory over the Greyhounds Sunday afternoon in Ontario Hockey League action.
“We were slow out of the gate once again but as the game got moving and by the midway part of the first period and throughout the second period, we were fine,” said Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe. “In particular, the first 10 minutes of the second period, we were very good. We were controlling play and they only had one shot on goal in the first 11 minutes of the second period. The problem was we really failed to generate anything from it. Credit to North Bay, they protected the middle of the ice and made it hard to get shots to the net.”
Keefe went on to say fatigue took over in the third period as the team played without the services of overage forward Andrew Fritsch due to a rib injury. Jean Dupuy and Michael Bunting also remain out due to injury. The Greyhounds also lost the services of defenceman Tyler Ganly in the first period due to injury.
“Our third period, and even towards the tail end of the second period, you could sense our guys wearing down,” said Keefe. “We were a very tired group, partially because we played yesterday and we used a short bench today. With the injuries we have, we used a short bench a little bit. (North Bay) was playing four lines and we were playing three for the most part and losing Ganly shortened things up even more.”
Keefe would call the second period their chance to pull away in the game.
David Miller had the lone goal for the Greyhounds in the loss. Goaltender Brandon Halverson stopped 29 shots.
“He was exceptional,” Keefe said of the rookie goaltender. “It was fun to watch him today. It reminded me of his first start when he shut out Belleville. He was excellent. He was as good a puck-mover as we had coming out of our end, which is not a negative to our defencemen. He was just lights out moving the puck up through their forecheck. He battled hard in the net. Positionally, he looked very comfortable, very sound. He was one major positive for us.”
The Greyhounds struggled on the power play against North Bay, going 1-for-7 in the loss.
“It’s been painful to watch for quite a while now,” Keefe said of the Greyhounds power play. “Today it reached the critical stage. We’ve got to give it a lot of thought and attention to get it turned around. It’s either costing us games or making games a lot harder than they need to be for us because we’re not getting any help or breathing room there.”
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Greyhounds while the Battalion continue their solid play in the new year. With the win, the Battalion improve to 9-2-2 since Jan. 1.
“They’re heavy on the puck and they protect the middle of the ice well,” Keefe said of North Bay. “At the same time, they forecheck you hard too and create turnovers. Even when we had a lot of puck possession time, it was tough going to the net. They lean on you and make it hard.”
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 35-12-1-4 while North Bay improves to 27-18-4-2 with the win.
The Greyhounds now prepare for another weekend on the road as they begin another road trip Thursday night in Windsor against the Spitfires. The trip continues Friday night in Plymouth and wraps up on Saturday night in Saginaw.