In a battle of the top two teams in the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division, the Windsor Spitfires took advantage of their chances against the Soo Greyhounds on Saturday night.
The Spitfires scored three unanswered goals in a 5-2 Ontario Hockey League win over the Greyhounds Saturday at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The game came down to some costly mistakes for the Greyhounds that led to Windsor goals.
“I would have like to see us put a lot more pucks on net and challenge the goalie a little bit more,” said overage forward Cole MacKay. “We did a lot of good things, but our mistakes cost us. They’re a very opportunistic team and they took advantage of that.”
Greyhounds coach John Dean spoke of wasted opportunities in the opening period.
“In the first 10 or 12 minutes, I actually thought we played very well,” Dean said. “We had some three-on-twos and two-on-ones, but we didn’t generate off of those opportunities. We created the chance, but we didn’t execute off of those opportunities. It was definitely critical.”
Playing their first game since Dec. 28 as a result of a number of postponements, the Spitfires had a game plan to make life difficult for the Greyhounds.
“We haven’t played in a while and we just wanted to play a simple game tonight,” said Windsor coach Marc Savard. “We wanted to be tight in our zone and we did that. We kept it to the outside and that was a big reason why we won the hockey game.”
Trailing entering the third period, MacKay spoke of how crucial getting the next goal was in the period.
“Down one going into the third, you definitely want to get that next goal,” MacKay said. “When they scored the 4-2 goal, that deflated us and that’s something that you don’t want to see, especially moving forward. We believe in ourselves in here and if we want to do something special, we have to be better than that and get that next goal.”
Dean added that in the second and third periods he felt the Greyhounds “started forcing things.”
“We had lots of turnovers at the red line and blueline,” Dean added. “Two goals out of their four even strength goals were a direct result of turnovers. I wouldn’t pinpoint the push in the third, I would more pinpoint our management of the puck in the second and the third was not very good at all.”
“You’re not going to win a lot of hockey games for first place when you’re handing guys the puck,” Dean said.
After a scoreless opening period, Windsor opened the scoring when Ryan Abraham took a pass from Nick DeAngelis in behind the Sault defencemen and beat Tucker Tynan 5-hole 2:47 into the frame.
Just 1:28 later, Wyatt Johnston made it 2-0 Spitfires when he beat Tynan from the left faceoff circle.
The Greyhounds got on the board at 5:24 when he beat Spitfires starter Xavier Medina from the left faceoff circle glove side.
Cole MacKay tied the game at 7:28 when he beat Medina from the top of the right faceoff circle shorthanded off a faceoff win by Tanner Dickinson.
Windsor pulled ahead late in the period when Will Cuylle found himself in the right faceoff circle and beat Tynan high short side at 18:21.
Matthew Maggio extended the Windsor lead at 7:08 of the third period when he took a great feed from Johnston, who outwaited a Sault defenceman and pulled Tynan toward him before feeding Maggio.
Maggio capped off the scoring with an empty net goal with 1:18 to go.
Tynan made 21 saves for the Greyhounds.
Medina made 23 saves for the Spitfires.
“He’s been solid for us since he came back from his ankle injury,” Savard said. “He’s been a rock for us”
“He made the big save when we needed it and the guys in front of him were really solid,” Savard added.
“That’s the message in here is to forget about it right away, turn the page and go home and get some rest and then take care of business tomorrow,” MacKay said.
Johnston finished the night with a goal and three assists to pace the Spitfires offensively.
“I’ve said it since the first month that I saw him that this guy is the best centreman in the Ontario Hockey League,” Savard said of Johnston. “He’s just had an incredible season. The patience, the defensive end, he does it all. He’s the full package.”
Maggio had three points for Windsor, picking up an assist in addition to his two-goal night.
The game was the first for both clubs in front of an empty rink following the provincial mandate implemented earlier in the week not allowing fans to attend games.
“It was different for sure,” MacKay said of the lack of fans in the building. “It was definitely a unique experience. It’s something that we’ve seen happen a lot around the world before. It’s something you can think about, but there’s nothing like it out there.”
Dean said the lack of fans in the building was most noticeable in certain aspects of the game.
“I noticed it the most when we had those close opportunities,” Dean said. “The goals generate energy no matter what on the bench. It’s those ones where you create a two-on-one and you just miss or you hit the post and the crowd makes a noise and the boys start feeling good about themselves.”
“We have a lot of passion in here and the fans definitely help at times, but we’re not going to make excuses,” MacKay said.
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 18-11-2-0 while Windsor improves to 15-9-2-2 and cuts the Sault lead atop the OHL’s West Division to four points.
The two teams return to action on Sunday afternoon in a 2:07 p.m. start at the GFL Memorial Gardens.