It was a first for Soo Greyhounds defenceman Mac Hollowell and it came at a great time.
Hollowell scored a natural hat trick on Sunday afternoon as the Greyhounds beat the Oshawa Generals 3-2 in overtime at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa in Ontario Hockey League action.
In the extra frame, Hollowell broke away from the left side boards and took a nice feed from Morgan Frost through traffic and proceeded to slip the puck past Oshawa goaltender Kyle Keyser under his blocker arm 2:30 into overtime.
“Frost had the puck near the goal line and I just tried to beat my man to the net, and he made a nice pass,” Hollowell said.
It marks Hollowell’s first OHL hat trick and gives the overage blueliner 19 goals and 58 points through 46 games, both tops in the league.
“It feels great,” Hollowell said of the trick.
“It’s definitely fun going into games knowing you’re going to be relied on in key situations,” Hollowell also said. “I’m playing good hockey right now.”
Hollowell has set career highs in both goals and points this season and is on pace to set a career high in assists as well.
Greyhounds Coach John Dean said following Hollowell’s first goal, the team joked “he was going to get four tonight.”
“It was a pretty special game,” Dean said. “When he scored the first goal, you just had a feeling that he was going to have a night.
“He’s just a guy that thrives in pressure situations,” Dean added. “We talk to our guys that we want 20 guys who want to fly the plane and that we don’t want any passengers. (Hollowell) is a guy who, when the going gets tough, he wants to be the pilot and it showed tonight.
A goal in the final minute of the opening period and another midway through period two gave the Generals the lead but Hollowell scored twice in the final five minutes of the second period to get the Greyhounds on even terms heading into the third. Even when trailing 2-0, the Greyhounds were not displeased with the game to that point.
“We played well,” Hollowell said. “Our energy and how hard we worked was really good today and it’s good to see.”
“We felt good about the way we were playing,” Dean said.
“Usually our team responds pretty well, with the exception of against Niagara (on Thursday,” Dean also said. “I liked our response (against Oshawa) more because of what happened in Niagara. I didn’t like the way we played in the second half of the game against Niagara and we were only down 2-1. To go down 2-0 (against Oshawa) and still believe in what you’re doing and knowing you’re playing a good game and sticking to the process, that’s a really good sign.”
Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta made 32 saves.
“Just the way he composed himself this morning at the team breakfast, it was pretty clear I think he was a man on a mission from the moment he woke up this morning,” Dean said. “He put in a pretty spectacular performance. That’s what we need from him.”
Greyhounds captain Barrett Hayton assisted on two goals.
Brandon Saigeon had a goal and an assist for the Generals. Serron Noel had the other Oshawa goal.
Keyser made 33 saves for the Generals.
The Greyhounds improve to 33-11-5-1 and take a four-point lead over the Saginaw Spirit atop the OHL’s West Division. The Spirit had Sunday off after beating the Flint Firebirds 6-4 on Saturday night.
In the Western Conference standings, the Greyhounds sit six points behind the conference-leading London Knights, who were also idle on Sunday. The Knights have a game in hand on the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds and Knights are set to meet for the third time this season, and first time in Sault Ste. Marie, during the Greyhounds upcoming homestand, which begins Wednesday night against Sudbury.
The Greyhounds and Knights will meet on Feb. 10 in an afternoon game at the GFL Memorial Gardens. The game caps off a tough homestand that will see the team also host the Niagara IceDogs.
Battling for positioning with Sudbury in the Eastern Conference, the Generals fall to 30-18-3-0.
Roman Pucek remained out of the lineup for the Greyhounds with a lower-body injury.
Dean said the Czech forward is not expected to be ready for Wednesday’s game but said he was “hopeful” that Pucek could return to action next weekend.
Jaden Peca missed his second consecutive game on Sunday.
Nursing an upper-body injury, Dean said Peca would be looked at locally when the team returns from the road trip, but he’s expected to be out two to four weeks.
The veteran forward missed two games on the trip after suiting up on Thursday night against the IceDogs.
In other action around the OHL on Sunday, the lone other game saw the Sarnia Sting beat the North Bay Battalion 5-4 in overtime in North Bay.
Hugo Leufvenius scored the overtime winner as a centering pass deflected past North Bay goaltender Christian Propp three minutes into the extra frame. Leufvenius had two goals and an assist for the Sting.
Mitch Elliot chipped in with a goal and an assist for Sarnia while Ryan McGregor assisted on a pair of goals.