As good as they have been offensively, it’s the defensive play of the Soo Greyhounds that had been the most impressive.
The Greyhounds used a strong effort defensively to skate to a 5-2 Ontario Hockey League win over the Owen Sound Attack on Friday night at the Essar Centre.
The team earned some high praise from coach Drew Bannister, not for their offensive play, which had been elite as well, but for the commitment in other areas of the game, specifically playing away from the puck.
“We’re a committed group,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “There aren’t too many games where I think we’ve cheated.
“Defensively for me, this is by far the best team defensively I’ve coached,” Bannister added. “These guys work away from the puck. They’re highly-skilled players so you have to give these kids credit. Sometimes the highly-skilled players aren’t willing to work away from the puck. That’s what makes this team special.”
The win over the Attack was one that saw the Greyhounds excel in a number of areas.
“Our top guys were really good tonight,” Bannister said. “Overall, we played well five-on-five. We didn’t give up a lot. (Owen Sound) is a good hockey team. They’ve got some real skill and we didn’t give them a lot of time to create.
The Greyhounds top line of Morgan Frost centering Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk combined for seven points, including a two-goal performance from Katchouk. Frost finished the night with a goal and two assists and Raddysh also picked up a pair of helpers.
Hayden Verbeek and Rasmus Sandin also scored for the Greyhounds. Barrett Hayton assisted on a pair of goals.
Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta made 20 saves.
Owen Sound Coach Todd Gill spoke highly of the Greyhounds in the game.
“They come at you in waves and stick to their system,” Gill said. “They can hurt you in a lot of different ways and they did that to us tonight.”
Aidan Dudas and Markus Phillips scored for Owen Sound. Rookie goaltender Mack Guzda made 22 saves.
The Greyhounds played the game without veteran blueliner Conor Timmins, who missed the game after suffering a lower-body injury on Wednesday night against the Saginaw Spirit.
Bannister said Timmins’ status is currently “week-to-week” and the team doesn’t plan to rush him back into the lineup.
The Greyhounds improve to 36-3-2-1 with the victory and remain 19 points ahead of the Sarnia Sting in the OHL’s West Division after the Sting also won on Friday night.
Already depleted, the Attack lost the services of high-scoring defenceman Sean Durzi late in the first period to a leg injury. Gill couldn’t confirm the extent of the injury following the game.
The team is already without four veterans due to injury, including Jonah Gadjovich, Chase Campbell, Olivier Lafreniere and Zachary Roberts. Roberts has already been ruled out for the season.
“It’s been a lot of adversity for our group all year long,” Gill said of the injury situation. “We’ve only had three games that we’ve had everybody playing.”
Entering the night in eighth in the Western Conference, the Attack fall to 16-17-2-5 and sit three points behind the Guelph Storm.
The Greyhounds wrap up their three-game homestand on Saturday night against the Mississauga Steelheads. Puck drop at the Essar Centre is 7:07 p.m.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, in Kingston, Isaac Ratcliffe scored a pair of goals as the Guelph Storm doubled up the Kingston Frontenacs 4-2. Liam Hawel set up a pair of goals and goaltender Anthony Popovich made 35 saves for the Storm.
In St. Catharines, Elijah Roberts had three goals and an assist as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Barrie Colts 6-3. Sam Miletic chipped in with two goals and an assist for the IceDogs.
In Sarnia, Sean Josling had two goals and an assist as the Sarnia Sting beat the Windsor Spitfires 6-1. Anthony Salinitri and Jordan Kyrou added two goals each for the Sting.
In Sudbury, Cole Carter had two goals and two assists as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Sudbury Wolves 6-3. Michael McLeod had two goals and an assist while Albert Michnac assisted on three goals for the Steelheads.
In Gatineau, Samuel Bitten scored a pair of goals as the Ottawa 67’s blanked the Gatineau Olympiques 5-0 in inter-league action. Olivier Tremblay made 17 saves for the shutout against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League-based Olympiques.
In London, Arthur Kaliyev and Nicholas Caamano had a goal and an assist each as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the London Knights 5-1. Riley Stillman and Robert Thomas set up a pair of goals each for Hamilton.
In Oshawa, Kyle Keyser made 43 saves as the Oshawa Generals beat the Flint Firebirds 5-3. Kenny Huether had a goal and an assist for the Generals. Matt Brassard and Jack Studnicka assisted on a pair of goals each for Oshawa.