The Soo Greyhounds are back in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs for a second straight season.
With a 3-0 win over the Sudbury Wolves on Saturday night in Sudbury, the Greyhounds became the OHL’s third team to clinch a spot in the post-season dance.
A pair of second period goals and a busy, but perfect, night from Matt Murray between the pipes lifted the Greyhounds to the win.
“We got better as the game went on,” said Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe. “We exposed the fact that they were a little bit fatigued and we had an excellent third period and it was as good a period as we’ve played all season.”
Murray made 38 saves for the shutout, including 16 in the first period.
The shutout was a milestone for Murray as the veteran netminder set a new team record for shutouts in a season with six. Robin Lehner held the previous mark of five, set during the 2009-10 season. Murray’s 27 wins bring him into a tie with Lehner, Marty Abrams and Marc D’Amour for the seventh most in a single season all-time. Kyle Gajewski and John Vanbiesbrouck hold the record with 39 wins, originally set in 1982-83 by Vanbiesbrouck and tied by Gajewski in 2007-08.
“(Murray) was just locked in,” Keefe said. “He was excellent and we were not very good, in the first period especially but even in the second period, it didn’t’ get a whole lot better in terms of us limiting (Sudbury’s) shots and their chances. He was very good and is a huge part of our success of our penalty kill. I’m thrilled for him to get that record.”
After a scoreless opening period, Sergey Tolchinsky and Darnell Nurse scored in the second period to give the Greyhounds a 2-0 lead. Tyler Gaudet scored into an empty net in the final minute of the third period to seal the win.
With an assist in the win, forward Bryan Moore has points in nine of 10 games with the Greyhounds since being acquired prior to the trade deadline from the Sarnia Sting.
Keefe credited the penalty kill as a boost in the win as the unit was forced to kill off a lengthy five-on-three in the latter stages of the opening period into the second.
“Like it has been, the penalty kill was a huge boost for us and it was a major challenge to kill off a lengthy five-on-three with fresh ice going into the second period,” said Keefe. “It was a big challenge for our guys and we handled it very well.”
The win continued a stretch that has seen the Greyhounds become one of the hottest teams in the league, having won three straight and nine of their last 10 games. The Guelph Storm have also won nine of ten while the win takes on added meaning for the Greyhounds as the Windsor Spitfires, who sit second in the West Division behind the Greyhounds, have won six straight games, which included a 3-1 win over Guelph on Saturday night.
Keefe said it was nice to “get that out of the way” in regards to clinching a playoff spot but noted that the team still has something to play for as they try to clinch a West Division title.
“Considering what this organization has been through over the last number of years, it’s a really nice thing for our organization and for our fans,” said Keefe.
Wolves goaltender Franky Palazzese stopped 32 shots in the loss.
The Greyhounds wrap up their northern trip on Sunday afternoon when they travel to North Bay to take on the Battalion in a 2 p.m. start at the North Bay Memorial Gardens.
File photo by SooToday.com's Kenneth Armstrong