With two key pieces out of the lineup for the Soo Greyhounds on Thursday night, Barrett Hayton made his return and played a big role for the team.
After missing nine games due to injury, Hayton returned to the lineup and had an immediate impact, scoring the overtime winner as the Greyhounds beat the Saginaw Spirit 2-1 at the Dow Event Center in Ontario Hockey League action.
“It’s tough being out that long and coming in to a fast-paced game but with that being said, I felt alright,” Hayton said of returning to the lineup.
On the winner, Hayton took a feed from overage defenceman Jordan Sambrook and beat Saginaw netminder Ivan Prosvetov from the left circle.
“It was huge,” Hayton said of the overtime winner. “It was an unbelievable pass. Definitely putting it in the net was a great feeling.”
Hayton finished the night with a goal and an assist.
“I think we forgot how much we miss him and his personality and the example he sets for the rest of his teammates with his work ethic,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “We spend a lot less time in our zone when Barrett Hayton is on the ice. He deserved to get that OT winner with the way that he played.”
Matthew Villalta made 33 saves for the Greyhounds.
“We got scored on (on an early shot) and we were playing pretty well and Matty came to the bench and said, ‘That one’s on me, I’ll take care of the rest.’ Sure enough, he did,” Dean said. “He put us on his shoulders tonight, there’s no doubt.
Jaromir Pytlik had the other goal for the Greyhounds.
For the Greyhounds, the single point by Saginaw clinched the division for the Spirit but that wasn’t the focus going into the game.
“Tonight, (winning the division) was the least of my concerns,” Dean said. “It was a pretty gusty effort by 20 guys. Everybody was towing on the same rope.”
“For our guys to show up the way they did and battle was impressive,” Dean added.
Damien Giroux had the lone goal for the Spirit, scoring three minutes into the contest on a chance from the right faceoff circle.
Prosvetov stopped 25 shots.
“It was a playoff game to a ‘T’,” Saginaw coach Chris Lazary said on the Spirit television broadcast.
“I have zero to complain about about that game,” Lazary also said. “It was a hell of a game both ways. That was a fun game to be a part of.”
Saginaw’s record sits at 45-15-3-3 as the team looks to catch London for top spot in the OHL’s Western Conference after clinching the West Division title with a point on Thursday night thanks to holding the tiebreaker scenarios over the Greyhounds should the teams finish tied in the standings.
Saginaw sits one point behind London with both teams having two games remaining.
The Greyhounds record improves to 42-16-7-1 and the team will finish in third in the OHL’s Western Conference, and second in the West Division.
The Greyhounds will face the Owen Sound Attack in the opening round of the playoffs as the Attack, with two games remaining, can’t move from their sixth-place seeding.
Morgan Frost missed Thursday’s game for the Greyhounds as he sat out the second game of a three-game suspension from a cross check major he received last weekend against Sarnia.
The high-scoring forward will miss Friday’s game against the London Knights before being eligible to return to the lineup on Sunday afternoon against Saginaw.
Overage forward Keeghan Howdeshell also missed Thursday’s game.
The veteran missed the contest due to illness.
“He’s nauseous,” Dean said. “It’s a stomach virus or the flu. I don’t have anything officially diagnosed. It just started today (Thursday).”
In other action around the OHL on Thursday night, in St. Catharines, Jason Robertson had two goals and two assists as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Mississauga Steelheads 4-2. The four-point night moved the IceDogs forward into the OHL scoring lead with 110 points, two ahead of Frost. Akil Thomas also had two goals for Niagara.
In North Bay, Justin Brazeau scored a pair of goals, giving him 60 on the season, as the North Bay Battalion beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-1. Christian Propp made 33 saves for the Battalion.
In Peterborough, Marco Rossi scored at 4:14 of overtime to give the Ottawa 67’s a 3-2 win over the Peterborough Petes. Tye Felhaber assisted on a pair of goals for Ottawa. Peterborough goaltender Hunter Jones made 40 saves.
In Windsor, Cody Morgan had the shootout winner as the Flint Firebirds beat the Windsor Spitfires 4-3. Emanuel Vella made 40 saves and stopped all three shooters in the shootout for the Firebirds. Curtis Douglas had a pair of goals for Windsor.