It was Jack Kopacka’s turn to be a hero on Friday night.
The veteran Soo Greyhounds forward slipped a backhand past Sarnia Sting netminder Justin Fazio to give the Greyhounds a 4-3 overtime victory at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia in Ontario Hockey League action.
Kopacka after carrying the puck into the Sarnia zone and losing control momentarily, Kopacka regained the puck, cut through the slot and beat Fazio from the right side of the slot to give the Greyhounds the win.
“Their two guys closed on me and somehow I didn’t get hit, their defencemen hesitated to come and get the puck, I just saw some open space and then just shot the puck,” Kopacka said.
“The defenceman wasn’t really backing up, so I went to my back hand. I knew where I was shooting it. I knew where I wanted to put it,” Kopacka added of the winner, which beat Fazio to the blocker side off the post and in.
Morgan Frost chipped in with a pair of goals for the Greyhounds. Frost’s first goal came in the final seconds of the opening period with the Greyhounds shorthanded.
“It was important, especially late in the period,” Frost said. “It helped carry momentum into the second period.”
“It was a big goal,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “Boris (Katchouk) attacked the forward and Frosty was able to find some space. Boris made a great play to the back-door to him.”
Barrett Hayton also had a goal in the win.
Bannister was pleased with the effort throughout the contest.
“From start to finish, we didn’t really have any lapses in our game,” Bannister said. “Overall, we played really well. From our goaltending, our back end and our forwards all performed really well.”
Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta made 25 saves.
Bannister said he plans to have Tyler Johnson start on Saturday afternoon in the weekend finale for the Greyhounds.
Former Greyhound Anthony Salinitri had a pair of goals for the Sting. Drake Rymsha has the other Sarnia goal while also picking up an assist. Jordan Kyrou, who entered the game as the OHL’s leading scorer, picked up three assists, giving him points in nine consecutive games. The St. Louis Blues prospect has 27 points in that stretch.
Veteran netminder Justin Fazio made 33 saves for the Sting.
The Greyhounds looked to generate shots and traffic against Fazio, who has been among the OHL’s top goaltenders this season.
“We did a better job of putting traffic around him and pushing him into the net,” Bannister said. “A lot of the goals we scored, we seemed to have really good traffic.”
“(Fazio) has been really good for them this year and we knew we needed to get a lot of shots on net,” Kopacka said. “The biggest thing is we got to the net tonight and got in his way and that made it harder for him.”
In a battle of the top two teams in the OHL’s West Division, the win improves the Greyhounds record to 14-3-2-0, good for 30 points. Meanwhile, the Sting remain one point up on the Greyhounds with a record of 15-3-1-0. The teams boast the top two records in the OHL.
The Greyhounds wrap up weekend action in Flint on Saturday afternoon in a 3 p.m. start at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center against the Firebirds.
The OHL schedule saw eight other games on Friday night.
In Kingston, Nathan Dunkley and Linus Nyman had a goal and two assists each as the Kingston Frontenacs beat the Peterborough Petes 7-1. The Frontenacs got goals from seven different players in the win.
In Mississauga, Albert Michnac had a goal and an assist as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Saginaw Spirit 4-2. The Steelheads held a 3-0 lead in the contest before the Spirit made the game close. Goaltender Evan Cormier stopped 34 shots for the Spirit.
In Ottawa, Travis Barron and Austen Keating had a pair of goals each as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Oshawa Generals 5-3. Kody Clark assisted on three Ottawa goals. Allan McShane scored three times for Oshawa while Domenico Commisso assisted on three goals.
In Sudbury, Ben Hawerchuk scored at 1:39 of overtime to give the Barrie Colts a 4-3 win over the Sudbury Wolves. Reagan O’Grady and Nolan Hutcheson had a goal and an assist each for Sudbury.
In London, Robert Thomas scored three times as the London Knights blanked the Flint Firebirds 9-0. Cliff Pu and Alex Formenton added a goal and an assist each while Sam Miletic assisted on three goals. Joseph Raaymakers stopped 32 shots for the shutout.
In Guelph, Matt Hotchkiss had a goal and two assists as the Guelph Storm beat the North Bay Battalion 6-2. Isaac Ratcliffe added a pair of goals for Guelph while goaltender Anthony Popovich made 33 saves.
In Hamilton, Matthew Strome had a goal and two assists as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Erie Otters 7-4. Brandon Saigeon chipped in with a pair of goals while Benjamin Gleason assisted on three goals. Kyle Maksimovich had two goals and an assist for the Otters.
In Kitchener, a goal by Greg Meireles at 11:00 of the third period was the game-winner as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Windsor Spitfires 4-3. Kole Sherwood assisted on a pair of Kitchener goals.