The small things can make a difference in any hockey game and for the Soo Greyhounds, it was the difference in the regular season opener.
The team opened the Ontario Hockey League regular season on Saturday night and it was the Oshawa Generals taking advantage of some mistakes in a 7-4 win over the Greyhounds at the Essar Centre.
It was a game that the Greyhounds feel was there for the taking.
“There was opportunity for us to win that hockey game,” Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister said. “In the first period, we did a lot of good things but we got into penalty trouble. With the amount of forwards we had and the guys that played specialty teams, it was pretty taxing on them. We dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole. We were able to get ourselves out of it early in the second period and we were playing really well. It was really small things that ended up in the back of our net.”
Overage netminder Connor Hicks got the start for the Greyhounds and stopped 25 shots.
Bannister confirmed that goaltender Matthew Villalta has rejoined the team after spending time in the training camp of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and could see action Sunday afternoon against the London Knights.
A pair of early goals, which included a marker by sophomore forward Serron Noel on a two-man advantage, lifted the Generals to a lead through the opening period, a period Bannister thought the Greyhounds showed promise at times.
“Before we had the penalties, we were going well five-on-five,” Bannister said. “We had carried the play for the most part at even strength.”
In the early stages of the third period, a Greyhounds two-man advantage had the potential to get the team back in the game again but the Generals would kill off both ends of the man advantage.
“There were a lot of opportunities there,” Bannister said. “There were a lot of good opportunities but you’ve got to score on it. We were doing some good things but we didn’t execute.”
Veteran forward Boris Katchouk paced the Greyhounds with two goals and an assist while Tim Gettinger added a goal and an assist. Zack Trott had the other goal for the Greyhounds
Noel finished the night with three goals for the Generals while Kenny Huether added a pair. Alex DiCarlo and Mason Kohn also scored for Oshawa. Veteran forward Allan McShane assisted on five Oshawa goals in the victory.
Oshawa goaltender Kyle Keyser made 30 saves.
“For a lot of kids, it was their first time playing back-to-back games in the league but at the end of the day, it was a great weekend,” said Generals Assistant Coach Nathan McIver, who is sharing the coaching duties with fellow assistant Greg Nemisz in the absence of Bob Jones. Jones has taken some time away from the team due to illness.
McIver would say that the Generals were not happy with the number of turnovers committed in the win.
“The Sault is a highly-skilled team, their forwards are a highly-skilled group and when you turn pucks over in the neutral zone, they’re coming onto you and their defencemen are jumping in,” McIver said.
For the Greyhounds, the weekend wraps up with a matinee game Sunday against the London Knights. Puck drop at the Essar Centre is set for 2:07 p.m.
The Knights enter the game on the heels of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Saginaw Spirit in Saginaw. Evan Bouchard had the game-winner 27 seconds into the extra frame.
In other action around the league on Saturday night, Stephen Dhillon made 39 saves as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-1 in Hamilton.
Jeremy Helvig made 31 saves as the Kingston Frontenacs beat the Mississauga Steelheads 5-2 in Kingston.
In Sarnia, Anthony Dumont-Bouchard made 36 saves as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Sarnia Sting 3-1.