It wasn’t an ideal start.
The Soo Greyhounds surrendered three first period goals in a 4-1 Ontario Hockey League loss to the North Bay Battalion on Friday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens in the regular season opener for both clubs.
North Bay opened the scoring early and added goals 26 seconds apart late in the period to take an extended lead into the dressing room after one in the first of back-to-back games between the two clubs this weekend.
“The good news is, we can be a lot better,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean.
The start was about as tough as they come for the Greyhounds.
“We had some opportunities for chances that we didn’t even generate a shot on net because of some poor decision-making, some fumbled pucks,” Dean said.
Dean called the start “tough.”
“There were a lot of bobbled pucks and the second thing for me was it looked like a lot of guys were trying to get in their structure, but they had no purpose inside that structure,” Dean said. “We were there, but we really didn’t value the job we were supposed to do. You could tell guys were probably overthinking a little bit.”
Rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson echoed the sentiments of his coach regarding the start.
“We weren’t shooting the puck,” Gibson said of the first period. “We had a lot of chances to shoot the puck, but we weren’t. In the second period, we started shooting the puck and we were on top of them. We ended off pretty strong, but we couldn’t get those goals back.”
Gibson agreed that nerves played a factor in the start for the Greyhounds.
North Bay coach Ryan Oulahen called the opening period “the difference in the game.”
“Our top players were able to finish on the chances that they had,” Oulahen added. “That allowed us to take that early lead and from there it was a pretty back-and-forth, fast hockey game.”
Despite the tough start, Dean said the final 40 minutes were a positive for the Greyhounds.
“There were opportunities to score and we did some good things,” Dean said. “I’m not sure we were as purposeful as we wanted to be, but I give a lot of credit to our group. We kept ourselves to a point where we could pull our goaltender to give ourselves an opportunity to tie the game up. We didn’t fold the tent down 3-0 pretty darn early.”
North Bay opened the scoring 95 seconds into the opening period when Kyle Jackson got the puck neat the bottom of the right circle and beat Greyhounds starter Charlie Schenkel on the power play short side.
The Battalion top line made it 2-0 at 16:34 as Jackson took a pass in close to the net from Matvey Petrov and slid a backhand past Schenkel.
Just 26 seconds later Matvey Petrov made it 3-0, beating Schenkel with a one-timer from the left wing high glove side.
After a scoreless second period, Gibson got the home team on the board as his shot from the right point found its way past Dom DiVincentiis high stick side.
Nikita Tarasevich sealed the win for the Battalion with an empty net goal with 1:09 to go in regulation time.
Petrov finished the night with a goal and two assists while Justin Ertel and Ty Nelson also had a pair of helpers each for North Bay.
The top line of Petrov, Ertel, and Jackson finished the night with seven points
“In this league, when you have game-breakers, you always feel like you’re in a hockey game,” Oulahen said. “Those guys can break the game wide open. They’re dangerous players and we’re lucky to have them.”
DiVincentiis stopped 22 shots for North Bay in the win.
“He had an underrated, outstanding performance,” Oulahen said. “We hung him out to dry and the chances that he did see were way too good. He was excellent.”
Oulahen also praised Jackson following the win.
“He has unbelievable hockey sense and vision and a knack for the net,” Oulahen said.
Schenkel made 34 saves for the Greyhounds.
“Charlie was fantastic,” Dean said. “He probably doesn’t love his first period for the simple fact that anytime three go in, whether they’re your fault or not, I know goalies are hard on themselves. In the second, he was fantastic and in the third, he gave us a chance.”
The teams return to action on Saturday night in a 7:07 p.m. puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens.