Heading on the road for game three, the Soo Greyhounds find themselves in the toughest position they could face as they prepare to travel to Erie.
After losing a 3-1 decision on Wednesday night to open their Western Conference semi-final series with the Erie Otters, the Greyhounds were blanked 4-0 by the Otters Friday night and will now head to Erie trailing by a pair of games in the best-of-7 series.
What makes it tougher is the fact that the Otters posted a 30-3-1-0 record on home ice in the regular season and both games on home ice in their first round series win over the Saginaw Spirit.
“We don’t have a choice but to keep fighting here,” said Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe. “We have a couple of days here to regroup. It’s no easy task to go out on the road to play when they’re very comfortable and very good.”
The Otters took a 1-0 lead in the opening period before scoring three times in the second, including twice on a 5-on-3 man advantage early in the period.
Brendan Gaunce scored at 3:02 of the second period in the first portion of the two-man advantage with Bryan Moore and Tyler Hore in the penalty box for the Greyhounds. Just 29 seconds later Dane Fox scored in the second half of the power play that would make the score 3-0 at the time.
“The game was closer than the score may have indicated,” said Keefe. “Special teams played a major factor. They got two (power play) goals and we had nothing to show for ours. That’s the difference in the game. We need to find ways to get pucks in and we can’t afford to give up the ones we do.”
Connor McDavid scored the other two goals for the Otters in the win while also chipping in with a pair of assists. McDavid’s linemates also had big nights. Fox also had three assists to go along with his goal while Connor Brown assisted on three goals.
“Obviously they came up big being in on all of the goals with 11 points between the three of them,” said Knoblauch. “It’s not very often you can keep them off the scoresheet two nights in a row. They made up for it tonight.”
Keefe also spoke highly of the Otters top line.
“That’s the best line in the league and the best line in the country,” Keefe said of the trio. “We knew that coming in and the challenges that go with it.”
Otters goaltender Devin Williams stopped all 33 Greyhound shots for the shutout.
“Devin has been outstanding,” Knoblauch said of Williams. “He was outstanding in the first three games against Saginaw. He was outstanding in the clinching game and then in the games here, (the Greyhounds) have had a lot of good chances and Devin made a lot of saves.”
Keefe felt the Greyhounds have been unlucky in the opening two games of the series.
“It’s fair to say we deserved more than we got (offensively),” said Keefe. “We deserved a few. Their goalie is playing well and we’re getting really unlucky so far through two games.”
For the Greyhounds, Matt Murray stopped 36 shots.
“He was really good,” Keefe said. “He gets us out of the first period down by one making a few incredible saves. He was the goalie we needed him to be. Unfortunately he was matched by a very similar effort at the other end.”
Knoblauch told reporters as well following the win that he sees similarities between this years Otters team and the 2010-11 Kootenay Ice team he coached to a Western League title and Memorial Cup berth.
“I see a lot of similarities,” Knoblauch said. “I see a lot of guys who want to win. They pay the price blocking shots and we have good quality goaltending. Not only are the teams similar but the way the season has gone with the highs and lows.”
Game three in the series is set for Monday night in Erie with game four scheduled for the following night.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, Daniel Altshuller made 18 saves as the Oshawa Generals blanked the Peterborough Petes 3-0 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semi-final series. Hunter Smith, Scott Laughton and Cole Cassels scored for Oshawa in the win. Andrew D’Agostini made 40 saves for the Petes in the loss.
The other Eastern Conference semi-final opened on Friday night as the North Bay Battalion blanked the Barrie Colts 1-0 in North Bay. Jake Smith stopped all 21 shots for North Bay while Alex Henriksson had the lone goal of the game at 15:23 of the third period. Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves for the Colts in the loss.
The other Western Conference semi-final, between the Guelph Storm and London Knights, opened on Friday night. Justin Auger scored at 17-54 to lift the Storm to a 6-4 win over the Knights after the Knights had battled back from a 4-0 deficit. Matt Finn, Robby Fabbri, Kerby Rychel, Pius Suter and Scott Kosmachuk also scored for the Storm. Jason Dickinson set up three goals in the win. Max Domi had a pair of goals for the Knights in the loss. Michael McCarron and Ryan Rupert also scored while Gemel Smith and Chris Tierney set up two goals each.
Photos by SooToday.com's Michael Purvis