A veteran and a rookie came through for the Soo Greyhounds on Saturday.
Rookie netminder Ethan Taylor was solid throughout while overage forward Keeghan Howdeshell continued to light the lamp as the Greyhounds picked up a 5-1 Ontario Hockey League victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton.
Taylor made 34 saves for the Greyhounds and was a key component in the opening 40 minutes with the result of the game still in doubt before the Greyhounds scored three times in the third period to seal the win.
“Obviously our third period was fantastic, but I don’t think we have that third period if Ethan isn’t presenting himself the way he did in the second period and the first forty minutes,” said Greyhounds Coach John Dean. “He gave our guys confidence to relax and take a breath.
“Ethan settled us down and we got back to our game in the third,” Dean added.
“He’s battled for us,” Howdeshell said. “He had a great weekend. He stood on his head for us.”
Taylor, who picked up a pair of weekend wins after getting the nod Friday night in a 3-2 overtime win in Mississauga over the Steelheads to start the road trip, said he felt “technically sound.”
“It’s a result of a good week of practice,” Taylor said.
Howdeshell scored twice for the Greyhounds and set up a shorthanded goal by rookie defenceman Ryan O’Rourke in the first period, a goal that would eventually be the game-winner.
“The kid has been wild,” Dean said of Howdeshell, who has 28 goals on the season and 15 in his last 12 games. “He was dominant again and he’s had a pretty special first half.”
Rookie Alex Johnston also scored for the Greyhounds, giving his six goals on the season and four in his last seven games.
“He’s another guy that’s easy to point to when showing guys, the right way to play,” Dean said. He’s dogged on the puck and works really hard. He gets rewarded for his work ethic. He’s got a really good skillset.
“Because of his work ethic and style of play, he causes opponents fits and gives himself chances to score,” Dean added.
Jacob LeGuerrier had the other goal for the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds will head into the Christmas break with a 21-8-4-1 record, tops in the OHL’s West Division and second in the Western Conference.
“I know how hard these guys have worked to get to this point,” Dean said. “When provided with the opportunity, they’ve stepped up.”
The players will return home for the Christmas holidays and are set to return to Sault Ste. Marie on Boxing Day, ahead of a home game on Dec. 28 against the Saginaw Spirit.
Brandon Saigeon had the lone goal for the Bulldogs while goaltender Nick Donofrio stopped 17 shots.
Hamilton falls to 15-17-2-0 heading into the break.
Two other games were on the afternoon schedule around the OHL on Saturday.
In Guelph, Barret Kirwin had two goals and an assist as the Guelph Storm beat the Mississauga Steelheads 6-4. Nate Schnarr chipped in with a goal and two assists for Guelph. Goaltender Anthony Popovich made 35 saves for the Storm.
In Ottawa, Aidan Dudas had two goals and two assists as the Owen Sound Attack doubled up the Ottawa 67’s 6-3. Kaleb Pearson chipped in with a goal and two assists for Owen Sound. Mitchell Hoelscher had a goal and two assists for Ottawa.
Sunday’s other three games were evening starts as the Niagara IceDogs were set to host the Oshawa Generals, the Sarnia Sting are in Saginaw to face the Spirit, and the North Bay Battalion were set to face the Barrie Colts in Barrie.