The Soo Greyhounds’ opponent for the opening round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs was officially determined on Saturday night.
Thanks to a 6-4 win over the Kitchener Rangers at the Essar Centre, the Greyhounds clinched sixth in the Western Conference and will face the Owen Sound Attack in the first round of the playoffs, beginning next week.
The Rangers entered the game without a number of veterans in their lineup including the likes of forwards Tobias Rieder, Matt Puempel and Radek Faksa. The Rangers had clinched fourth in the Western Conference and the game could not affect their position in the standings.
“It was a weird game and these are tough games to get through,” said Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe. “As much as it’s easy to look at and see the other team sit players. It’s a meaningless game for them and it’s as hard and in some cases even harder for our team. (The players) see what’s going on and it’s very easy to lose your edge.”
Michael Schumacher led the way for the Greyhounds with two goals and an assist in the win. Andrew Fritsch and Jared McCann chipped in with a goal and two assists each. Darnell Nurse added a goal and an assist for the Greyhounds. Dylan Staples also scored in the win. Goaltender Matt Murray stopped 35 shots.
“We got better as the game went on,” said Keefe, “In the second period we did a lot of things that we wanted to do. The first period was not great. I’ll put the first period on me. The system that we were playing wasn’t very conducive to success for our team offensively. We made some adjustments for the second period and I thought it made a big difference.”
Keefe called the fact that the Greyhounds clinched sixth a good sign for the team.
“(Clinching sixth) is a sign of how far this team has come,” said Keefe. “To not just make the playoffs but to get in as a sixth seed and somewhat comfortably get in is a good accomplishment. I feel like we could have done better than that but all things considered, looking at how far the team has come, it’s a good accomplishment for those guys.”
For the Rangers, Ben Thomson had two goals and an assist in the loss. Owen Stewart and Josh Leivo also scored for the Rangers. Goaltender Joel Vienneau stopped 32 shots.
“We competed hard,” said Rangers Associate Coach Paul Fixter. “We challenged some guys to play some minutes that they don’t normally play and play some different roles and they did a good job. We did ourselves proud. We always want to win but we had 73 goals out of the lineup tonight and it’s tough to win when you have those players out. That being said, we made a game of it.”
Fixter ran the Rangers bench in place of coach Steve Spott, who did not make the trip north.
The Greyhounds wrap up the Ontario Hockey League regular season on Sunday night when they host the London Knights in a 7:07 p.m. start.
Photo courtesy Jim Egan