It was a struggle and for the Soo Greyhounds, it’s a little bit of adversity for a team that has faced little of it this season.
Facing a team playing their third game in just under three days, the Greyhounds couldn’t take advantage, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Saginaw Spirit Sunday afternoon in Ontario Hockey League play at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
For the Greyhounds, the team has lost three of four games and is now facing what coach John Dean says is “our first real taste of adversity over the course of the year.”
“We need to use it to learn,” Dean added.
Dean also called it “a flat, very low-event hockey game for both teams.”
“(It was) very low-event, which tells me that we didn’t have a ton of jump and offensive scrap to our game,” Dean added.
The power play was also a struggle in the loss for the Greyhounds who went 0-for-5 in the loss.
“We overpassed the puck. We looked a little bit off script at times by certain guys,” Dean said. “We really only generated one really good opportunity on all those power plays, one really good grade A, maybe two. It has to bring us life. It can’t deflate us.”
Dean agreed that there were opportunities early in the game for the Greyhounds where overthinking came into play offensively.
“In a low-event game, you have to start thinking about scoring in different ways,” Dean said. “That means getting to the blue paint and working harder for secondary opportunities and I don’t think we had that in our game tonight.”
For the Spirit, coach Chris Lazary said there was a lot he liked from his team in the shutout.
“I liked that we got to a lead early and we took our game to an offensive game right into a lockdown,” Lazary said. “It wasn’t about just sitting back, but not giving up the line easy, not giving up our middle ice easy. Just making sure when we had pucks that we call dead pucks that really there’s no play to be made, to put it in an area where they’ve got to continue to try to get through five of our guys.”
Lazary added that the shift to being able to make things difficult for the Greyhounds was “a big step for our group.”
Both coaches spoke of Saginaw getting the early lead in the game and the impact it had on the result.
For Dean, it was moreso just falling behind by a pair of goals that was the issue and deflated the Greyhounds early on.
“We go down right away to one of the best power plays in the league. You can’t do that in the first five minutes,” Dean said. “The second goal against is extremely preventable. We had a couple guys stop tracking on the way back.”
“It’s huge,” Lazary said of the start. “Right away your power play gets one, so you get a little excitement and then you score shortly after to get up 2-0 and that’s when we decided to play a smart game the rest of the way. We had it up 3-0 last time in our game (against the Greyhounds) at home. We didn’t see that adjustment, maybe it’s a different story.”
Picking up a win in the final game of a three-in-three weekend was a big bonus for the Spirit as well.
“Today was all hands on deck,” Lazary said. “I’m proud of our guys. It’s tough. I don’t love that the league puts us in this spot in a 2 o’clock game after being at home and having to travel, but it is what it is.”
Saginaw wasted little time getting on the board first in the opening period. Sault product Calem Mangone beat Greyhounds starter Charlie Schenkel with a one-timer from the slot on a pass from Michael Misa six seconds into a power play. The goal came 92 seconds into the game.
The Spirit took a 2-0 lead just over three minutes later when Owen Beck broke down the right wing, skated into the right circle and beat Schenkel high glove side.
Josh Bloom added an empty net goal with 3:44 to go in regulation time to make it 3-0.
Schenkel stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced in the loss.
Mangone finished the day with a goal and an assist for the Spirit.
Andrew Oke made 22 saves for the shutout.
In addition to moving six points ahead of the Greyhounds atop the divisional standings, Saginaw improves to 37-13-0-1 with the win.
The Greyhounds fall to 33-15-2-1 with the loss and will return to action on Wednesday night at home to wrap up a three-game homestand before heading on the road for the Family Day weekend, beginning with a game Friday night in London against the Knights.
The Spirit are idle until Thursday night when they travel to Barrie to take on the Colts in the opening game of a three-game road trip that will take the team to Sudbury and North Bay as well.