As disappointed as they were in the result, it turned into a time of reflection for many players.
A four-goal second period was the difference as the Soo Greyhounds dropped a 7-1 decision to the Flint Firebirds in game five of their Ontario Hockey League Western Conference semifinal series.
With the win, the Firebirds win the series 4-1 and advance to the Western Conference final
Among the four goals were three power play markers by the Firebirds that put the home team in the driver seat for the remainder of the night.
For the Greyhounds veteran players, the disappointment was clearly evident in their voices, speaking of the result as well as the end of their OHL careers.
“It’s pretty hard to put into words losing in the first place. We’re a better team than we showed tonight,” MacKay said. “Right now, it’s just self-reflection. I’m proud of the team we became this year. Even though we didn’t get the job done, I’m proud of everyone in that room. I feel blessed to have shared the last close to a full year with those guys.”
Veteran forward Rory Kerins called it “a tough way to go out.”
“We lost Tye early in the game and that second period, they scored in bunches and put us away,” Kerins added. “It was a tough game, but I’m just so happy that I got to be a Soo Greyhound and wear this jersey. It was the biggest honour of my life.”
Greyhounds coach John Dean said early on in the game he felt the team looked “timid.”
“The second half of the first period, we did look better,” Dean said. “The second period has been our nemesis all series. Once we got ourselves into penalty trouble, it took a lot of wind out of our sails unfortunately and the rest of the game speaks for itself.”
The Greyhounds lost overage forward Tye Kartye very early in the game with a collarbone injury after throwing a hit early on.
“Tye is such a warrior,” Dean said. “He played a couple of shifts with a pretty darn hurt collarbone.”
Dean said Kartye injured himself on a hit during his first shift of the game.
“I’m devastated for him to have to end (his career with the team) the way it did,” Dean said. “It’s almost fitting. He ended going out playing physical and putting it all on the line.”
Dean said the team believes the collarbone is broken.
“I’ll tell you something about Tye Kartye though. He apologized to us,” Dean said. “That’s the kind of kid (he is).”
Firebirds coach Ted Dent called the middle stanza “a crazy period.”
“The second period just happened so quick,” Dent said in an interview with the Firebird Hockey Network. “There were so many penalties and goals, I couldn’t keep up.”
After a scoreless opening period, Flint’s Tyler Deline opened the scoring 2:14 into the second period. Deline took a pass along the blueline from James Petrovski, skated to the edge of the left faceoff circle and beat Greyhounds starter Tucker Tynan through traffic.
Gavin Hayes made it 2-0 Flint on a power play goal at 11:21. Hayes got the puck in the right faceoff circle and beat Tynan through a screen by Riley Piercey for his third goal in the last two games.
After back-to-back penalties to the Greyhounds, Zacharie Giroux made it 3-0 on the two-man advantage for the Firebirds. Giroux took a back-door pass from Hayes and beat Tynan at 13:46.
Just 1:38 later, with the Firebirds back on a 5-on-3, Giroux got his second of the night when he moved into open ice, took a pass from Brennan Othmann and beat Tynan with a backhand to make it 4-0.
Flint pulled further ahead early in the third when Coulson Pitre converted a feed from Simon Slavicek on a 2-on-1 at 2:19 to make it 5-0.
The pair then connected again to make it 6-0 as Slavicek converted a pass from Pitre on a give-and-go at 11:05.
Giroux got his third of the night with 1:56 to go as he redirected a pass in the slot from Riley Piercey in the right circle on the power play to make it 7-0.
Forward Cole MacKay got the Greyhounds on the board in the final minute of play, deflecting a shot in close by Robert Calisti from the high slot past Flint goaltender Luke Cavallin with 24 seconds to go.
MacKay called it special to score the final goal of the season, specifically with the Greyhounds veterans including Calisti, Kerins, and Ryan O’Rourke on the ice as well.
“It’s that much better that I got to do it with those guys on the ice,” MacKay said of scoring the goal. “Me, Robbie, Rory, and Ryan came into this league together almost and we spent every moment of these last four years together. Five for me and Rob. It was pretty special to get that one to send if off on a positive note on a pretty negative night.”
“I was happy for them to have that small moment inside of an otherwise very difficult night,” Dean said
Tynan finished the night with 48 saves for the Greyhounds.
In addition to the three-goal night for Giroux, Othmann assisted on three goals for Flint while Deline, Salvicek, Pitre, and Hayes had a goal and an assist each for Flint.
“He’s a warrior for us,” Dent said of Giroux. “He battles so hard and he’s an undersized guy, but his effort and his hard work and his heart every night is great.”
Piercey assisted on two goals for the Firebirds.
The Firebirds will face the Windsor Spitfires in the conference final after the Spitfires beat the Kitchener Rangers 3-2 on Saturday to advance.
The Eastern Conference final will see the Hamilton Bulldogs face the North Bay Battalion.