For their first meaningful game since March 2020, there were some positive to take away from it for the Soo Greyhounds.
Key goals and killing off a major penalty helped the Soo Greyhounds to a 4-1 Ontario Hockey League win over the North Bay Battalion on Friday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
Rory Kerins and Cole MacKay paced the Greyhounds with a goal and an assist each in the win while Tanner Dickinson and Robert Calisti also scored.
The team also killed off a major penalty late in the second period while holding a 3-1 lead, which turned into an important moment for the young team as well.
“We’ve talked about being a team that plays with speed first and skill second,” Dean said. “We have a group that has a skillset that can respond to situations in front of them as opposed to trying to be skillful first, we’ve made a very clear attempt to play with speed and adapt as we go.”
The game remained scoreless through much of the opening period before Kerins got the home side on the board in the final minute of the frame.
Kerins took a feed from Tye Kartye and beat Dom DiVincentiis 5-hole with 42 seconds to go in the period to give the Greyhounds the lead heading into the intermission.
North Bay proceeded to get on the board 38 seconds into the second period when Matvey Petrov beat Greyhounds starter Samuel Ivanov from the slot.
Shortly after, the Battalion appeared to take a 2-1 lead though the potential go-ahead goal was waved off following review due to an offside.
“That was the turning point in the game right there,” said Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen. “We scored one and then a quick one right there, we were rolling and carrying the play at that point. For that to get disallowed kind of sunk us a little bit and then they got the couple there quick and that was the game.”
The Greyhounds would then take a 2-1 lead thanks to a power play goal later in the frame.
Veteran forward Dickinson got the puck in the left faceoff circle and beat DiVincentiis high.
Cole MacKay then gave the Greyhounds a 3-1 lead at 12:34, again beating DiVincentiis from the left circle.
The Battalion got an opportunity to cut into the Greyhounds lead later in the period when Greyhounds captain Ryan O’Rourke was given a major penalty and game misconduct for checking to the head with 4:31 to go in the middle period.
It was the Greyhounds though that had the better of the chances, forcing DiVincentiis to make key saves on Bryce McConnell-Barker and a pair on Dickinson before the period was complete.
“Especially at the end of the period, if they get (a goal), the momentum goes to them so it was a big kill,” Kerins said.
“That changed the momentum of the game,” Dean added. “That and the (North Bay) goal that got turned over. That could have been ugly in terms of how our guys respond to that. Then on the five-minute penalty kill, we sent out three groups of forwards and five D, credit to (associate coach) Jordan Smith for preparing those guys well. You get a lot of momentum when you kill off a five-minute major. Killing off the five was big for us.”
Oulahen called the major penalty “probably our chance to get back into the game.”
“Getting it at the end of the period, if we could get one and go into the intermission down by one, it might have been a different story going forward,” Oulahen added.
The Greyhounds would take a 4-1 lead midway through the second period as a point shot by Calisti beat DiVincentiis low glove side. The goal was subject to a lengthy review before being counted.
“The explanation was (the video) was inconclusive from up top,” Oulahen said.
Ivanov made 17 saves for the Greyhounds.
“We gave (North Bay) a lot of chances early,” Dean said. “They did a really good job against us bulling the zone and spreading us out and getting opportunities to score, which was difficult for us to play against.”
“Sammy was great,” Dean added.
Asked about a potential starter for Saturday’s game, Dean said a decision hadn’t been made on who would start against Sudbury.
DiVincentiis made 25 saves for the Battalion.
Rookie Greyhounds forward Owen Allard left the game due to injury and did not return.
His status for Saturday wasn’t known following the game.
The Greyhounds return to action on Saturday night in a 7:07 p.m. puck drop against the Sudbury Wolves at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
An audio game recap also follows: