Facing one of the Ontario Hockey League’s top teams and one that loaded up ahead of the trade deadline last week, the Soo Greyhounds have a lot to like from their game against the Saginaw Spirit on Friday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
There’s a lot to learn from it as well.
In the end, a four-goal third period lifted the Spirit to a 5-2 win over the Greyhounds on Friday in a battle between West Division foes.
“We had a really good 40 minutes,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “That’s a credit to our guys, they executed the game plan extremely well.”
“In the first ten minutes of the third, we looked like a team playing not to lose as opposed to a team playing to win,” Dean added. “We lacked a killer instinct in the first ten minutes (of the third) and credit to Saginaw, their best players showed up in that first ten.”
Dean also added that he felt the Greyhounds pushed back later in the period, but it was too late.
“That’s a big lesson for our guys,” Dean said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas, especially against a good team like that.”
Dean called the first 10 minutes of the third period “the difference in the game.”
For the Spirit, a slow start could have done the team in early according to coach Chris Lazary.
“We started slow in the first,” Lazary said. “They were all over us and we didn’t have an answer. We found our game in the last 40.”
“We were hanging on in the first,” Lazary also said, adding that a goal on a two-man advantage in the opening period was important.
Goaltender Nick Malik, who signed with the Greyhounds last week ahead of the OHL’s roster deadline, was solid in the game, stopping 26 shots.
“We played good in front of him and when we gave up a chance, he made big saves,” Dean said of the rookie. “He made some big saves look easy as well.”
Dean added that he like Malik’s ability to play the puck as well.
Saginaw’s top line of Cole Perfetti, Cole Coskey and Ryan Suzuki combined for 10 points in the win.
Suzuki led the way with three goals and an assist while Perfetti chipped in with a goal and two assists. Coskey assisted on three goals.
“It’s two guys that are on a different level with their ability to think the game,” Lazary said of Perfetti and Suzuki.
“That line in a tie game, needs to go out and find a way to get you a lead and they just do,” Lazary also said.
Jake Goldowski had the other goal for the Spirit while Damien Giroux assisted on two goals.
Goaltender Tristan Lennox stopped 34 shots.
Zack Trott and Joe Carroll scored for the Greyhounds.
The two clubs will return to action on Saturday night in the final of the home-and-home set in a 7:05 p.m. start at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.
Friday’s loss drops the Greyhounds record to 20-20-2-0 heading into Saturday’s game. The team sits four points behind the Erie Otters for the final playoff spot in the OHL’s Western Conference after the Otters beat the Sarnia Sting on Friday night.
Saginaw improves to 26-12-2-2 and sits in a tie for top spot in the conference with the Kitchener Rangers.
For the Greyhounds, defenceman Ryan O’Rourke and Jaromir Pytlik both returned to the team Friday from the CHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton on Thursday night.
O’Rourke picked up an assist for Team White in the and spoke to reporters about the experience following the game.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, in St. Catharines, Ivan Lodnia had the shootout winner as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Barrie Colts 4-3. Cameron Butler and Oliver Castleman had a goal and an assist each for Niagara.
In Ottawa, Alec Belanger had the shootout winner as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Flint Firebirds 5-4. Joseph Garreffa had a goal and two assists for Ottawa.
In Sarnia, Brendan Hoffmann’s goal at 13:23 of the third period was the game winner as the Erie Otters beat the Sarnia Sting 4-3. Maxim Golod assisted on three goals for Erie.
In Guelph, Mack Guzda made 25 saves as the Owen Sound Attack beat the Guelph Storm 4-1. Sergey Popov and Andrew Perrott assisted on a pair of goals each for the Attack.
In Kitchener, Declan McDonnell had two goals and an assist as the Kitchener Rangers beat the North Bay Battalion 9-2. Axel Bergkvist chipped in with a goal and two assists while Riley Damiani and Greg Meireles also scored twice each.
In London, four unanswered goals lifted the London Knights to a 4-1 win over the Sudbury Wolves. Matvey Guskov had a pair of goals for London.
In Oshawa, third period goals by Ty Collins and James Hardie were the difference as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Oshawa Generals 4-2. Hardie had a pair of goals for Mississauga. Brett Neumann scored both goals for Oshawa.
Friday’s other game between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Kingston Frontenacs at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston was postponed due to what the league called “an ice plant issue.” The game will be rescheduled