Early goals made a world of difference for the Soo Greyhounds on Sunday afternoon.
The team scored three times in the opening 20 minutes en route to a 6-1 Ontario Hockey League win over the Owen Sound Attack at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The goals played a bigger role in an opening period that saw the Attack outshot the home team 10-7.
The Greyhounds picked up a goal on the man advantage as well as a shorthanded goal in the opening period.
“Special teams saved out butts in the first period,” Greyhounds coach John Dean said.
Dean credited the start to the game for the Attack and the Greyhounds response to it.
“Owen Sound came out exceptionally strong,” Dean said. “They outplayed us five-on-five in the first period and because of our talent, we capitalized on a Grade A opportunity on a two-on-one early. Then we can let our hair down and relax.
“I loved our response in the second half of the first period,” Dean added. I liked the way we responded in the second and the third.”
Dean credited the play of goaltender Samuel Ivanov as well early in the contest.
“I really liked what Sammy did in the first 10 minutes,” Dean said. “Without Sammy in the first 10 minutes, it might be a different story.”
Attack coach Greg Walters was pleased with the start for the visitors but spoke of breakdowns early leading to the Greyhounds getting on the board.
“They’re built to win this year,” Walters said. “They’re very well coached. They have elite players and you can’t give them an inch. We came out and really pushed them hard. Their goalie was really good early. They had maybe two shots on net in the first 10 minutes and then we have a breakdown in one of out structures and gave them a two-on-one and they get momentum. You can’t give those teams those goals.”
Walters called the game a learning experience for a young Attack team.
“We can’t have those mental mistakes to give up odd-man rushes,” Walters said. “They’re going to create enough on their own. You can’t be giving them stuff.”
With the lead in tow, the Greyhounds added a pair of goals in the second period, which saw them outshine the Attack 16-3.
“The guys in there know what the formula is and they’re really starting to hold each other accountable,” Dean said. “There’s been some renewed life since the deadline and that’s carried into both games (this weekend).”
“We’d love to have those periods all the time,” added forward Cole MacKay. When we come together and play as a unit, we get results like that.”
Forward Rory Kerins said the Attack coming out strong after Saturday’s game was expected.
“We knew they were going to push,” Kerins said. “They first 10 minutes was huge. We just wanted to weather the storm a little bit because we knew they were going to come out a little desperate. We did that and when we got our opportunities, we buried them. We got those three goals in the first period and when you have a back-to-back with a team and you spank them the night before the you put up three goals in the first period, it kind of deflates them a lot.”
The Greyhounds opened the scoring 7:06 into the game when MacKay took a pass from Kerins on a 2-on-1 and beat Owen Sound goaltender Nick Chenard high glove side from the right faceoff circle.
The Greyhounds took a 2-0 lead thanks to a power play goal by Rory Kerins at 11:23. At the side of the goal, Kerins put the puck up and over Chenard as the Owen Sound net was coming loose. A lengthy video review confirmed the goal.
Tye Kartye made it 3-0 with 1:26 to go in the opening period when he jumped on a neutral zone turnover by the Attack, skated down the right wing and beat Chenard stick side from the right faceoff circle shorthanded.
Rookie forward Justin Cloutier made it 4-0 Greyhounds in the second period when he beat new Attack goaltender Corbin Votary from the right faceoff circle on a shot that appeared to deflect off a stick on the way to the net.
Tanner Dickinson made it 5-0 Greyhounds at 18:04 of the second period when he took a pass in the left faceoff circle from Kerins and beat Votary high stick side.
In the third, Kerins extended the lead to 6-0 at 14:33 when he beat Votary stick side from the high slot.
Nick Porco got the Attack on the board 19 seconds later when he took a pass from Cedricson Okitundu on a 2-on-1 and beat Greyhounds goaltender Samuel Ivanov from the left circle.
Kerins paced the Greyhounds offensively in the game with two goals and two assists.
Dickinson and MacKay had a goal and an assist each.
Ivanov made 23 saves.
Chenard stopped four of the seven shots he faced in the opening period. Votary stopped 26 of 29 shots in the final two periods of the contest.
With the win, the Greyhounds improve to 20-12-2-0 and sit six points ahead of the Windsor Spitfires atop the OHL’s West Division. The Spitfires were in action Sunday evening at home against the Flint Firebirds in a game that wasn’t complete at the time of writing.
Owen Sound, in a battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, fall to 13-13-1-2 with the loss.
The Greyhounds are scheduled to return to action on Thursday night on the road against the Spitfires.