During a season in which wins have been harder to come by, the latest setback hurts just a little bit more than the others.
Outplaying their opponent through 40 minutes, the Greyhounds surrendered three goals in the final 2:41 of regulation time in a 4-2 Ontario Hockey League loss against the Erie Otters Thursday night at Erie Insurance Arena.
“It’s definitely the most frustrated I’ve been after a loss all year,” said veteran forward Tyler Savard. “We had that one in our fingertips and thought we were going to get over the hump. It feels like a step back.”
“It’s not a good feeling,” added overage forward Mark Duarte. “It’s another learning experience that a game is never done until it’s done. (Not winning games) sucks.”
Duarte also said Thursday’s loss hurts a little more because of the way the game finished.
After falling behind in the opening period, the Greyhounds got a pair of goals in the middle stanza to take the lead into the third. Erie then took control in the final five minutes to pick up the win.
“We’re a young team and it got a little hectic,” Savard said of the final few minutes of the game. “Guys got nervous and weren’t making the plays that they normally would make.”
“In this league, the game is never over,” Savard also said. “The offensive teams are too deadly. It doesn’t matter if you’re in first or last. Everyone is so good that, in the last five minutes, that’s when you have to bear down and (we didn’t) do that tonight.”
“Our decision-making in the last five minutes went out the window,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “We had a horrible decision on rush coverage on the game-tying goal. It shouldn’t be a tie game. Then, on the game-winning goal, it looks like we’re surprised that the other team is still working hard.”
Dean added that the Otters first three goals were the result of “really bad mistakes that are preventable.”
“It’s very disappointing,” Dean also said. “You can’t play 40 minutes in this league. You have to play 60.”
Dean felt the Greyhounds were “dominant” through the first two periods.
“We can’t play the game half engaged,” Dean said. “There’s no reason for us to lose that hockey game tonight and the guys need to wear that tonight.”
Thursday’s loss extended the Greyhounds losing streak to seven games. While there have been some positives through the stretch prior to Thursday’s game, Dean said the message following Thursday’s loss “won’t be positive tomorrow” as the road trip continues.
“The mistakes that were made are not because the other team outplayed us or the other team decided to do something special we haven’t seen before,” Dean added. “Those are mistakes that are quite simply lackadaisical and unacceptable.”
Erie opened the scoring 7:29 into the game when Malcolm Spence finished off a short passing play in the slot by taking a feed from Brett Bressette and beat Greyhounds goaltender Samuel Ivanov.
Duarte got the Greyhounds on the board just past the midway point of the second period. The overage forward redirected a back-door pass from Tyler Savard past Erie goaltender Nolan Lalonde at 10:55, finishing off a play started by Justin Cloutier.
Duarte gave the Greyhounds a 2-1 lead with 1:10 to go in the period when he skated out from below the goalline and slide the puck past Lalonde from the top of the crease.
Elias Cohen tied the game for the Otters with 2:41 to go in regulation time as he went to the net and redirected a pass from Noah Sedore in the right faceoff circle past Ivanov.
Cohen then potted the winner with 58.4 seconds to go as he took a pass at the bottom of the left faceoff circle from Christian Kyrou through the slot and beat Ivanov with a one-timer.
Bressette sealed the win for Erie with 1.5 seconds to go thanks to an empty net goal.
Cloutier had assists on both Duarte goals for the Greyhounds in the loss.
Ivanov made 19 saves.
In addition to the two-goal night for Cohen, Bressette and Liam Gilmartin also had multi-point nights for the Otters.
Bressette finished the day with a goal and an assist while Bressette assisted on a pair of goals.
Lalonde stopped 23 shots for the Otters.
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 5-9-4-4. The team sits eighth in the OHL’s Western Conference standings, four points behind the Otters, who improve to 10-7-0-2.
The road trip continues for the Greyhounds on Friday night in Mississauga against the Steelheads before a day off on Saturday.
The team will wrap up the trip on Sunday afternoon in Hamilton.
Forward Ethan Montroy got into the lineup for the Greyhounds on Thursday night in his first action of the season with the team after starting the season with the Central Canada Hockey League’s Cornwall Colts.
Montroy saw action in 28 games last season with the Greyhounds and general manager Kyle Raftis said starting the season in Cornwall allowed the 17-year-old forward to get some regular ice time after injuries kept him out of the lineup for extended periods last season.
Raftis also said on Wednesday that things are progressing well for injured forward Owen Allard and blueliner Luc Brzustowski.
Raftis said Allard remains on track to return in the new year while Brzustowski has skated with the team of late since being injured in Ottawa on Oct. 30.
Brzustowski will not play this weekend on the road, but a return to the lineup could happen relatively soon after that.