Though they felt like the final two periods weren’t their best hockey, the Soo Greyhounds picked up a crucial win on Tuesday night.
After opening up a three-goal lead through 20 minutes, the Greyhounds held on for a 3-2 Ontario Hockey League playoff win over the Flint Firebirds at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The win cuts the Firebirds lead in the Western Conference semifinal series between the two clubs to 2-1 after Flint won the opening two games on home ice over the weekend.
“We were definitely desperate and we worked hard,” veteran forward Rory Kerins said. “I didn’t think we played our best game at all, but we were a desperate team that worked really hard and Tucks (goaltender Tucker Tynan) played a great game and that’s what we needed from him tonight.”
While the team struggled in the final two periods, Greyhounds coach John Dean said he was happy with the team “bending but not breaking” with the lead.
“The last 40, we don’t play very well,” Dean said. “It’s a first for a lot of guys in that room to play in a game like that, holding onto a lead.”
Kerins called the early lead big for the Greyhounds.
“You can’t win a game in the first period, but you can definitely lose a game,” Kerins said. “That was a big three goals for us.”
“Obviously our first 20 was really good,” Dean added. “We were very physical in the first 20. We did play with some desperation. We managed the puck well at both bluelines. A lot of positives come out of that first period.”
Flint coach Ted Dent felt his team rebounded well after a tough start in the game.
“We had a few turnovers in our own end that resulted in goals against,” Dent said. “That’s easily fixable. We just have to bear down in those areas.”
Jordan D’Intino opened the scoring for the Greyhounds just under five minutes into the contest when he took a pass near the goal from Kalvyn Watson and beat Firebirds goaltender Luke Cavallin high stick side.
The Greyhounds took a 2-0 lead at 10:10 when Rory Kerins grabbed a turnover on the left wing, skated into the slot, and beat Cavallin glove side.
Tyler Savard extended the lead to 3-0 on the power play at 12:26. Savard scored on a rebound in close after Cavallin made the initial save on Bryce McConnell-Barker from the right circle on the play.
Flint got on the board in the second period when Gavin Hayes beat Greyhounds starter Tucker Tynan from the left faceoff circle glove side on the power play at 16:39. The goal came just 19 seconds into the power play.
Hayes cut the Greyhounds lead to 3-2 in the third when he one-timed a pass from the bottom of the left circle past Tynan at 12:09. Braeden Kressler hit Hayes with the pass from the slot on the play.
Returning to the lineup after a three-game league-imposed suspension, Tynan made 29 saves for the Greyhounds.
“Tucker was the difference in the game,” Dean said. “There’s no doubt about it. In the last 40 minutes, we hung on. They out-chanced us and out-played us. It’s probably our worst game of the series and we find a way to win it. Tucker Tynan is a huge part of (getting the win).”
“He’s been pretty dialed in for the playoffs and the last couple of games of the regular season,” Kerins said. “He’s a gamer. When it’s important, he’s going to show up and perform. He’s a really good goalie. We love his energy and the way he plays for us.”
Cavallin made 26 saves for the Firebirds in the loss.
Game four is set for Thursday night in Sault Ste. Marie. Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens is 7:07 p.m.
Dean said he feels some improvements will be needed for game four.
“We were very poor on the forecheck in the second half of the game,” Dean said. “Our exits were very poor. We didn’t look like we wanted the puck on our stick on our breakouts and that was so successful in game one and game two. Just more confidence and swagger is all that is.”
Defenceman Jack Thompson will return to the lineup for the Greyhounds after serving a one-game league-imposed suspension for a hit on Zacharie Giroux at the end of game two in Flint.
Thompson was given a major penalty for checking from behind on the play.
On the injury front for the Greyhounds, Savard played the third period with a full cage on his helmet after being cut near his neck by a skate late in the second period. Though he required stitches, the rookie forward finished the game.