They’re two of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference early on this season, and they showed why on Friday night at the Essar Centre.
A pair of goals in the third period were the difference as the Soo Greyhounds beat the Kitchener Rangers 3-2.
The two clubs entered the contest atop their respective divisions and the game would eventually be decided by a pair of third-period goals by the Greyhounds.
Netminder Matthew Villalta was solid, making 27 saves in the victory, including 10 in the opening period.
“I love getting shots early on in the game, it gets me into the game and builds for the rest of the game,” Villalta said. “It does build your confidence and you can go from there and build off the first period.”
The game was a bounce-back effort for Villalta, who said he “knew he had to be better” than Wednesday night in the Greyhounds 6-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit.
“My rebounds were pretty good today, the puck really stuck to me,” Villalta said.
“Matty had a really good bounce-back game,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “He was more composed in the net and it was certainly more realistic to what we know of the way Matty plays. He had to make some key saves in tight after they scored that second goal.”
Bannister said there is “a good chance” that Connor Hicks will get the start in the Greyhounds game against Ottawa Sunday afternoon.
Hayden Verbeek scored a shorthanded goal midway through the third period that held up as the eventual game-winner while Barrett Hayton and Morgan Frost also scored for the Greyhounds, who improve to 7-1-1-0 with the victory.
Greg Meireles and Connor Bunnaman had a goal and an assist each for the Rangers.
“It was a hard-fought game by both teams,” said Kitchener Coach Jay McKee. “I think every game we play the Greyhounds is going to be a lot of the same.”
Goaltender Anthony Dumont-Bouchard made 22 saves for the Rangers.
“He’s been great for us from the day he got to Kitchener,” McKee said.
McKee was pleased with the Rangers effort, despite the loss.
“Our compete was high,” McKee said. “We came in (Thursday night) and had a good skate this morning.
“Early in the game we tried to roll four lines because we’re in the beginning of a three-in-three,” McKee added. “We wanted to try to spread out our ice time.”
In other action around the league, Brady Hinz had two goals and an assist as the Sarnia Sting beat the Mississauga Steelheads 8-1 in Sarnia. Hugo Leufvenius chipped in with a goal and two assists.
In Sudbury, a four-goal second period helped the Sudbury Wolves to a 7-1 win over the Ottawa 67’s. David Levin had two goals and two assists for the Wolves. Troy Lajeunesse assisted on four Sudbury goals.
In Kingston, Jonathan Ang and Adam Timleck had shootout goals as the Peterborough Petes beat the Kingston Frontenacs 3-2. Hunter Jones made 32 saves for the Petes and stopped three of four Kingston shooters in the shootout.
In St. Catharines, Johnny Corneil had a pair of goals as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Guelph Storm 3-1.
In London, Chris Playfair’s goal at 1:18 of the second period was the game-winner as the Windsor Spitfires beat the London Knights 2-1. Windsor goaltender Michael DiPietro made 38 saves.
In Oshawa, Kaden Fulcher made 32 saves as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Oshawa Generals 3-2. Justin Lemcke had the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs. Ben Gleason assisted on a pair of goals. Serron Noel had a goal and an assist for Oshawa.