After a lacklustre opening to a three-game homestand, the Soo Greyhounds returned to action on Saturday night with an effort that was much more pleasing.
The Greyhounds would score a pair of goals in the third period to pick up a 4-1 win over the Niagara IceDogs on Friday night at the Essar Centre.
The game was one that was an upgrade over Wednesday’s win over the Sudbury Wolves.
“Overall, we did a lot of good things,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister.
“It was a good game for us,” Bannister also said. “There were a lot of good performances from guys. Matt (Villalta) was strong in net. He didn’t see a ton of action, but he was really calm and confident in net.”
Villalta finished the night stopping 22 shots for the Greyhounds.
Bannister said he expected to go back with Villalta for Sunday’s homestand finale.
Hayden Verbeek had a goal and an assist for the Greyhounds. Boris Katchouk, Tim Gettinger and Barrett Hayton also scored.
Without a pair of veterans on the blueline, Bannister credited the Greyhounds defencemen in the victory.
“They played smart and kept it simple,” Bannister said. “They got pucks up to our forwards and never really got themselves in trouble.”
Stephen Dhillon made 30 saves for the IceDogs while Kirill Maksimov had the lone Niagara goal.
“We came in and wanted to limit mistakes and didn’t want to hand them anything,” said Niagara Coach Billy Burke.
“Our first period was exactly how we wanted to play,” Burke also said. “We were happy with our start. Even in the second period, to be down only one goal against the Greyhounds, we were fine with that. It’s unfortunate. A couple bad turnovers that a team that’s nationally-ranked will make you pay."
The Greyhounds improve to 12-3-2-0 while Niagara drops to 7-5-3-1.
The Greyhounds will wrap up its three-game homestand Sunday afternoon in a 2:07 p.m. start at the Essar Centre against the North Bay Battalion.
Notes: The Greyhounds played the game minus a pair of veteran defenceman as both Noah Carroll and Conor Timmins were out due to league-imposed suspensions. Carroll sat out the second game of a two-game ban after an incident last weekend in Sarnia while Timmins served the lone game of his suspension after a hit on Sudbury’s Troy Lajeunesse on Wednesday night. Timmins received a major penalty for kneeing on the play.
Calvin Martin also missed the game due to an upper-body injury.
Bannister said Martin is skating but would be out day-to-day. He isn’t expected to be in the lineup Sunday against North Bay.
Niagara played the game without the veteran forward Johnny Corneil, who Burke said is about a week away from returning while a flu bug is also affecting the team and kept defencemen Jonathon Schaefer and Elijah Roberts out of the lineup Saturday night.
In other games around the OHL on Saturday, in Erie, Aaron Luchuk scored at 2:02 of overtime to give the Windsor Spitfires a 4-3 win over the Erie Otters. Luchuk and Logan Brown had two goals and an assist each.
In Flint, James McEwan scored at 4:05 of overtime as the Guelph Storm beat the Flint Firebirds 3-2. Guelph goaltender Anthony Popovich made 38 saves while Garrett Forrest made 42 saves for Flint.
In Hamilton, Ben Garagan and Justin Lemcke had a goal and an assist each as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Oshawa Generals 4-2.
In Peterborough, Christopher Paquette scored his second goal of the night at 2:20 of overtime to give the Peterborough Petes a 5-4 win over the Barrie Colts. Jonathan Ang finished the day with two goals and two assists while Nikita Korostelev added a goal and two assists for the Petes.
In Saginaw, Blade Jenkins had three goals as the Saginaw Spirit beat the North Bay Battalion 6-1. Damien Giroux added a goal and two assists for Saginaw.
In Sudbury, Albert Michnac scored a pair of goals to lead the Mississauga Steelheads to a 4-3 win over the Sudbury Wolves. Emanuel Vella made 33 saves for the Steelheads. Michael Pezzetta scored a pair of goals for Sudbury while goaltender Jake McGrath made 35 saves.
In Owen Sound, Max Jones scored a pair of goals as the London Knights scored four times in the third period en route to a 4-1 win over the Owen Sound Attack. Sam Miletic added a goal an assist for the Knights.