It was as good a return as he could have expected.
Goaltender Matthew Villalta returned to the Soo Greyhounds on Saturday night after a sting at the training camp of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and proceeded to backstop his Ontario Hockey League club to a 5-1 win Sunday afternoon over the London Knights at the Essar Centre.
“I was a little bit nervous at the start of the game because it was my first game back,” Villalta said. “But overall, after the first period I settled in. The team played great in front of me and I fed off that.”
Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister added that Villalta’s ability to kill plays helped settle the team down during the course of the game.
“Having Matty V in there when we did make some mistakes, he was able to kill the play,” Bannister said. “He was really calm. Anything that went towards him, his rebound control was really good.”
Villalta called the Kings training camp a good learning experience ahead of his return to Sault Ste. Marie.
“It was a really good challenge for me,” Villalta said.
“I stayed pretty calm there and I was composed,” Villalta also said.
The Greyhounds scored three times on the man advantage in Sunday’s win over the Knights and added a shorthanded goal by veteran forward Morgan Frost, which came off a penalty shot in the late stages of the second period.
Tim Gettinger, Keeghan Howdeshell and Barrett Hayton scored on the man advantage for the Greyhounds. Gettinger also assisted on a pair of goals.
The Greyhounds killed off four of London’s five power plays in the win.
“The penalty kill was good again today and we scored shorthanded,” Bannister said. “Unfortunately, we gave up the (power play) goal late in the third on a bad line change. That was more of the coaches calling a player off. That wasn’t a player’s fault, it was more of us on the bench making a decision there. Overall, it was much better today.”
Adrian Carbonara had the lone goal for the Knights, who finish the opening weekend of the season with a 1-1-1-0 record.
Bannister felt the Greyhounds “took advantage of a team that played three games in three nights.”
Hayden Verbeek had the other goal for the Greyhounds while Noah Carroll and Ryan Roth chipped in with a pair of assists each for the Greyhounds.
“(At even strength) we did a lot of good things,” Bannister said. “In the second period, we started to cheat a little bit but the ice was really bad. We got a lot better in the third. We did a good job playing away from the puck and making smart plays. We didn’t turn the puck over as much (in the third period).”
Although disappointed with the result, Knights Coach Dale Hunter didn’t fault the effort of his team.
“The kids played hard,” Hunter said.
“We just need to keep working and fine-tuning our game both individually and as a team,” Hunter also said. “They’re young kids and it takes time.”
The Knights, like the Greyhounds continue to play without a handful of veterans, but Hunter said he’s using it as an opportunity.
“Other kids get to step up and play more in different situations,” Hunter said. “It’s a learning curve all the time.”
Knights goaltender Tyler Johnson made 34 saves.
The Greyhounds return to action on Thursday night in the first game of a three-game road trip in Barrie against the Colts.
In other action around the OHL on Sunday afternoon, Luke Burghardt scored at 19:56 of the third period to cap off a five-goal period and lift the North Bay Battalion to a 6-5 win over the Sudbury Wolves in Sudbury. Burghardt finished the day with three goals and an assist.
In Windsor, Michael DiPietro stopped all 30 shots he faced as the Windsor Spitfires blanked the Guelph Storm 4-0. Aaron Luchuk had a goal and an assist for the Spitfires.