The first weekend of exhibition action is complete for the Soo Greyhounds and, while there were some positives, work remains to be done.
The team skated to a 5-4 shootout victory over the Saginaw Spirit on Sunday evening in Ontario Hockey League action at the Essar Centre. The game was the second in a home-and-home set that saw the Spirit beat the Greyhounds 4-3 on Saturday night at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.
For the Greyhounds, the early pre-season games continue to be a learning experience for players who haven’t played at the OHL level.
“We played well in the first period and did a lot of good things,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “As the game went on, our D struggled to move pucks and hung on to it a little too long. That got us into a lot of trouble in the defensive zone.”
“Guys were tired because we were spending too much time in the defensive zone,” Bannister also said.
With two games in the books, the play of the Greyhounds young forwards continues to be a positive following the first weekend of exhibition action.
“Some of our young forwards showed well,” Bannister said. “Zack Trott showed that he doesn’t need a lot of room to score. Cole MacKay played very well with (Morgan) Frost and (Boris) Katchouk.”
Bannister also credited the play of both Hayden Fowler and Ryan Roth in the win.
“The young forwards (as a group) have played well in spurts,” Bannister said. “There’s still consistency in their game that needs to come, but that’s why we have exhibition games.”
Rookie defenceman Robert Calisti had the shootout winner for the Greyhounds while Trott had a pair of goals. Veteran forward Jack Kopacka chipped in with a goal and an assist while Katchouk assisted on a pair of goals. Frost also scored for the Greyhounds.
Goaltender Matthew Villalta got the start for the Greyhounds and stopped 26 shots in regulation time and all seven Saginaw shooters in the shootout.
Sault products Nicholas Porco and Camaryn Baber had goals for the Spirit. Baber finished the day with a goal and an assist.
Saginaw Coach Troy Smith said both players have been welcome additions to the organization.
“(Porco) is a phenomenal kid,” Smith said. “He’s got great hockey sense. He’s got a bright future.”
“Baber played extremely well tonight as well,” Smith also said. “It’s tough coming into your hometown to play. They both played with a lot of composure.”
Smith said that the plan is for Baber to join the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Thunderbirds this week.
Nate Boomhower and Cole Coskey had the other goals for Saginaw.
Smith was happy with the effort of the Spirit in both games against the Greyhounds.
“We competed hard both nights,” Smith said. “Our goal coming into this weekend, we’ve got such a young group against a team that’s going to be very good this year (the Greyhounds), we just wanted to match their work ethic.
“We worked extremely hard,” Smith also said. “(The Greyhounds) have got some veteran players there. They’re going to be a great team. It’s pre-season, so we don’t want to overstate anything but the main goal was to make sure that we worked hard and we did that.”
Smith took over as head coach of the Spirit over the summer and called it an exciting opportunity to work with the highly skilled young core of the team.
“That’s one of the reasons why I really wanted this job,” Smith said. “(General Manager) Dave (Drinkill) has done a great job of compiling young talent. Our job is if going to be to develop them and be patient and put them into positions where they’re going to be successful.”
With some time off from game action, the Greyhounds were due to leave Sunday night for a team-building event at Camp Wakonda and game action doesn’t resume until Sept. 15 when the team begins a home-and-home weekend series with the Sudbury Wolves in Sudbury. The weekend set then wraps up on Sept. 17 in a 2:07 p.m. puck drop at the Essar Centre.
In the OHL’s pre-season tournament in Buffalo, six different players had goals as the North Bay Battalion beat the Flint Firebirds 6-1. Daniel Walker and Brett McKenzie had a goal and an assist each for North Bay. Brad Chenier assisted on a pair of goals. Cam Dineen, Justin Brazeau, Luke Burghardt and Alex Robert also scored for the Battalion. Hakon Nilsen had the lone goal for Flint.
Also in Buffalo, William Sirman scored a pair of goals as the Windsor Spitfires skated to a 4-1 win over the Peterborough Petes. Igor Larionov chipped in with a goal and an assist while Cole Purboo and Jake Smith assisted on two goals each. Mathew MacDougal also scored for Windsor. Adam Timleck had the lone goal for the Petes.
The final game of the day in Buffalo between the Kitchener Rangers and Erie Otters was a 7:30 p.m. start and not complete at the time of writing.
In Kingston, Cody Morgan had two goals and an assist as the Kingston Frontenacs beat the Ottawa 67’s 5-2. Linus Nyman and Jason Robertson had a goal and an assist each while Paul Labrie also scored for the Frontenacs. Kody Clark and Kyle Auger scored for the 67’s.
In Owen Sound, Alan Lyszczarczyk had two goals and an assist as the Owen Sound Attack beat the Barrie Colts 5-1. Jacob Friend added a goal and an assist for the Attack while Matthew Struthers and Kevin Hancock also had goals. Nick King and Nick Suzuki assisted on a pair of goals each for Owen Sound. Lucas Chiodo had the lone goal for Barrie.