It’s tough to take a lot away from exhibition games with much of your roster away at NHL training camps.
For the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, that meant playing a weekend home-and-home series with the Sudbury Wolves without six veterans and a host of youth in a lineup that featured nine forwards and five defencemen.
For a team that looks to have players in positions where they can be successful, the weekend set, which wrapped up with an 8-4 loss Sunday afternoon at the Essar Centre, was an experience for the young Greyhounds, especially those on the blueline who were playing against many of the Wolves veterans.
“Our young defencemen have a hard time handling minutes with five defencemen, but playing with nine forwards and five defencemen isn’t ideal,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “They’re young kids and we’re putting them in a position that they’re probably not quite ready for.”
Veteran forward Morgan Frost paced the Greyhounds with a pair of goals while sophomore forward Barrett Hayton and rookie forward Zack Trott added a goal and an assist each. Keeghan Howdeshell assisted on a pair of goals for the Greyhounds.
With Matthew Villalta away attending the training camp of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, overage netminder Connor Hicks and rookie Dougie Newhouse split the game and continue to battle for the Greyhounds second goaltending spot.
Bannister said that “once Matthew gets back, we’ll continue to evaluate.”
“I don’t think one or the other has a head above,” Bannister said.
Hicks got the start and stopped 10 of 14 Sudbury shots before making way for Newhouse, who stopped 14 of 18 shots in the final 29 minutes of the contest.
Rookie forward Cole MacKay missed the game due to a knee injury suffered in Friday’s contest against the Wolves in Sudbury. Bannister said the 16-year-old is expected to see a doctor Monday to determine the full extent of the injury.
The Greyhounds received word Sunday that defenceman Noah Carroll is expected to return to the Greyhounds lineup after participating in the Carolina Hurricanes training camp.
The team hasn’t received word on the status of the organizations other drafted players, including Boris Katchouk (Tampa Bay), Conor Timmins (Colorado), Tim Gettinger (New York Rangers), and Jack Kopacka (Anaheim).
David Levin paced the Wolves offensively with two goals and three assists. Drake Pilon, MacAuley Carson, and Ryan Valentini added a goal and an assist each. Kyle Rhodes, Dawson Baker, and Owen Lane also scored for the Wolves while Michael Pezzetta and Zack Malik assisted on two goals each.
“The biggest thing is that we did some good things,” said Wolves Coach Cory Stillman. “When we were on pucks and when we were moving the puck, we created chances and scored on them.”
Marshall Frappier got the start for the Wolves and stopped 13 of 14 shots while David Bowen made 13 saves on 16 shots in a relief effort.
For Stillman, in his first season as coach, the former NHL forward likes the effort he saw from the team through the exhibition schedule.
“We’re getting an effort,” Stillman said. “We have to be a team that comes and competes and shows up every night. As the exhibition games went on, we got a lot better in those areas.”
The Greyhounds now prepare to open regular season action on Saturday night against the Oshawa Generals. Puck drop at the Essar Centre is set for 7:07 p.m.
AROUND THE OHL
In North Bay, Sean Durzi and Ethan Szypula had a goal and two assists each to lead the Owen Sound Attack to a 6-5 win over the North Bay Battalion. Luke Burghardt had two goals and an assist for North Bay.
The other two exhibition games in the league on Saturday were evening games as Barrie was set to face Hamilton and Oshawa hosted Peterborough.