After dropping a pair of games for their first regulation time losses since late-October last weekend, the Soo Greyhounds looked to return to the win column on Friday night on home ice.
It might not have been perfect, but the Greyhounds would beat the Windsor Spitfires 6-4 at the Essar Centre in Ontario Hockey League action, snapping its longest winless skid of the season in the process.
After a good start to the game and jumping out to a 4-0 lead, the Greyhounds surrendered three Spitfire goals to make the game close before sealing the win with a pair of goals in the final period.
“We played really well early,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “I don’t want to say we were complacent, but the fundamentals weren’t great tonight. I didn’t think we were physical enough in the defensive zone. I didn’t see a lot of stop and start to our game, especially from our forwards in the defensive zone. Our defense could probably have simplified a little bit in moving the puck in transition, which put us in a little bit of trouble where we spent a little bit more time in the defensive zone than we wanted to.”
“The fundamentals in our game bothered me but at the end of the day, we won the game and move forward,” Bannister also said.
Boris Katchouk and Tim Gettinger scored a pair of goals each for the Greyhounds. Jack Kopacka and Taylor Raddysh added a goal and an assist each to round out the scoring. Morgan Frost assisted on three Sault goals. Noah Carroll and Hayden Verbeek set up two goals each.
Matthew Villalta made 25 saves for the Greyhounds.
Overage forward Jake Smith scored twice for Windsor. Luke Kutkevicius added a goal and an assist while Cole Purboo had the other Windsor goal. Curtis Douglas and Connor Corcoran assisted on two goals each for the Spitfires.
Michael DiPietro got the start for Windsor but was pulled early in the second period after surrendering four goals on 13 shots. Brock Baier came in and stopped 13 of the 14 shots he faced the rest of the way.
“We have a young team and we’re trying to get better each game,” said Spitfires Coach Trevor Letowski. “We showed a lot. Nothing but positives come out of that game for me. I’m really happy with the way we played.”
Bannister would credit the Spitfires for battling back in the second half of the contest.
“Windsor pushed hard in the second part (of the game) and activated their defencemen,” Bannister said. “They were up in the play and they pushed us hard.”
“The message is that we want to play the same way no matter if we’re losing or winning, if we’ve won four in a row or lost four in a row,” Letowski said. “We need to build our identity. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
After playing in the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game in Guelph on Thursday night, Barrett Hayton and Rasmus Sandin sat out Friday’s game for the Greyhounds but will be in the lineup on Saturday night against Barrie.
Puck drop Saturday night is 7:07 p.m.
While veteran defenceman Conor Timmins remains out due to injury, goaltender Tyler Johnson will also miss the weekend after an injury suffered in practice ahead of last weekend’s road trip. Villalta will start against Barrie and could also start Sunday’s road game in Saginaw against the Spirit.
The Greyhounds improve to 38-5-2-1 with the victory and sit stop the OHL’s West Division with 79 points, 12 points ahead of the Sarnia Sting.
Battling for positioning in the OHL’s Western Conference, Windsor falls to 23-18-2-2 with the loss and sits in a three-way tie in the conference standings with the Guelph Storm and Saginaw Spirit.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, Nicolas Mattinen had a pair of goals as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Erie Otters 4-3.
In Kingston, Gabriel Vilardi had a goal and an assist as the Kingston Frontenacs beat the Oshawa Generals 4-1. Sean Day set up a pair of goals for Kingston.
In Mississauga, Ryan McLeod scored at 2:38 of overtime as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Peterborough Petes 4-3. McLeod finished the night with two goals and an assist. Nicolas Hague chipped in with a goal and two assists for Mississauga.
In St. Catharines, Sam Miletic scored at 2:27 of overtime to cap off a 6-5 comeback win by the Niagara IceDogs over the Sarnia Sting. Niagara scored five unanswered goals in the win. Miletic finished the night with three goals and an assist while Ben Jones set up five goals for Niagara, Jordan Kyrou had two goals and an assist for Sarnia.
In Ottawa, Adam Thilander and Adam McMaster scored shootout goals as the North Bay Battalion beat the Ottawa 67’s 6-5. Luke Moncada had a goal and three assists in regulation time for North Bay. Daniel Walker added two goals and an assist for the Battalion. Sasha Chmelevski scored twice for Ottawa.
In Sudbury, Lucas Chiodo scored a pair of goals as the Barrie Colts doubled up the Sudbury Wolves 6-3. Joey Keane assisted on four goals for Barrie. Blake Murray had a pair of goals for Sudbury.
In Guelph, Isaac Ratcliffe had three goals and an assist as the Guelph Storm beat the Flint Firebirds 5-3. Connor Roberts scored a pair of goals for Flint.
In Kitchener, Kole Sherwood had three goals and an assist as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Saginaw Spirit 6-2. Adam Mascherin chipped in with a goal and three assists for Kitchener. Logan Brown also set up three Kitchener goals.
In London, Alex Formenton had three goals and an assist as the London Knights beat the Owen Sound Attack 7-4. Tyler Rollo had a goal and three assists and Evan Bouchard assisted on four goals for the Knights. Liam Foudy chipped in with a pair of goals for London.