It looked bleak early on, but the Soo Greyhounds found a way to grab two points on Saturday night.
The Greyhounds rebounded from an early deficit to beat the Brantford Bulldogs 7-5 on Friday night in Ontario Hockey League action at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
Trailing 4-1 early in the second period, the Greyhounds scored six of the next seven goals in the contest to pick up the win.
Greyhounds coach John Dean said the comeback showed “top to bottom character.”
“Rafty (General Manager Kyle Raftis) talks to me quite a bit about having a team that believes in themselves no matter what the score is and I felt that on the bench,” Dean added. “Very calm on the bench. Really good leadership. Very vocal leadership on the bench. Our elite players who have been in the league for a while played a very physical brand of hockey when the chips were down and put the team on their back.
For the Bulldogs, some critical mistakes late in the game led to things unraveling.
“We made some mistakes,” Brantford coach Jay McKee said. “The first goal that they scored early in the third that gave them some life, we have three of our veteran forwards on the ice and they return to our defensive zone and they all swing to the puck carrier. That leaves the D man wide open and probably a shot that we need a save on in the third. We had some older guys make some mistakes to star the third and that gave the Sault a lot of life.”
McKee said the solid start was partially a product of the team being “ready to play.”
“We were engaged physically, skating well,” McKee said.
“Our guys didn’t sit back,” McKee added. “You see the score of the game they played last night, and our guys could have come in tentative, but they didn’t do that. We came out ready to go, but we just couldn’t close it out.”
Dean credited the Bulldogs play early in the game.
“They came out really hard and we were a little flat, maybe thinking we were better than we really are after the big win last night,” Dean said, adding that he felt it wasn’t a case of taking Brantford lightly.
Brantford opened the scoring as Marek Vanacker took a shot from the left circle that beat Greyhounds goaltender Landon Miller glove side 2:17 into the hockey game.
Nick Lardis made it a 2-0 game as he beat Miller from the right faceoff circle 1:08 later.
The Greyhounds thought they had pulled to within one on a goal by rookie Travis Hayes, but the goal was waved off due to an offside.
Jack Beck made it a 2-1 game a short time later as he batted in a loose puck near the side of the goal to beat Bulldogs netminder Matteo Drobac at 16:24.
Brantford took a 3-1 lead when Jake O’Brien took a pass as he skated into the slot and forced Miller to open up before sliding a backhand 5-hole at 17:30.
Just 73 seconds into the second period, Lawson Sherk made it 4-1, beating Miller with a backhand 5-hole on a breakaway and ending the night for the rookie Sault netminder.
The Greyhounds cut into the lead when Travis Hayes potted a loose puck in a scramble at 10:09 to make it a 4-2 game and then Owen Allard made it a one-goal game at 12:19 when he skated into the left faceoff circle and beat Drobac short side.
Brantford took a 5-3 lead into the dressing room thanks to a goal from Florian Xhekaj.
The Bulldogs forward skated into the left circle and beat Greyhounds goaltender Charlie Schenkel with a shot short side at 13:38.
The Greyhounds again made it a one-goal game when veteran defenceman Kirill Kudryavtsev beat Drobac from the top of the right faceoff circle 38 seconds into the third period.
Finnish defenceman Arttu Karki tied the game at 3:36 when he beat Drobac with a one-timer from the lower part of the right faceoff circle on a pass from Brenden Sirizzotti on the power play.
The locals took the lead for the first time in the game with 5:38 to go as Allard beat Drobac stick side from the left circle to make it a 6-5 game.
Bryce McConnell-Barker sealed the win with an empty net goal with 25 seconds to go in regulation.
Beck finished the night with four points for the Greyhounds on the strength of a goal and three assists.
In addition to the big night offensively, Beck made a pair of crucial defensive plays late with the Greyhounds clinging to the lead.
“This guy’s hockey intelligence is second-to-none,” Dean said of the overage forward. “I wish I had this guy from year one. He’s so fun to coach. He’s intelligent and loves the game.”
“He does not get nearly enough credit for how gritty he is,” Dean added.
Dean called the veteran forward “an absolute warrior tonight.”
Allard had two goals and an assist while Hayes (a goal and two assists) and Sirizzotti (three assists) also had three-point nights for the Greyhounds.
Karki, McConnell-Barker, and Kudryavtsev added a goal and an assist each for the locals.
Miller stopped nine of 13 shots in the game before being pulled. Schenkel stopped 13 of 14 shots the rest of the way.
Sherk, Xhekaj, and Vamacker had a goal and an assist each for Brantford.
Daniel Chen added a pair of helpers in the loas.
Drobac stopped 25 shots.
The Greyhounds, who improve to 2-0-0-0 with the win, return to action on Wednesday night at home against the London Knights.
Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens is 7:07 p.m.
On the injury front, rookie forward Brady Martin is week-to-week with a lower body injury while Christopher Brown is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Both were injured in Friday’s win over Flint.
On the roster front, sophomore forward Ethan Montroy is no longer with the team after being released.