The start wasn’t ideal, but the Soo Greyhounds showed what they are capable of for two periods on Friday night.
The team score eight times over the final two periods, including six unanswered goals in a 10-4 Ontario Hockey League victory over the Sudbury Wolves Friday at Sudbury Arena.
Adjusting to the Wolves forecheck after 20 minutes helped the Greyhounds shift the play in the contest and allowed the West Division leaders to take control of the contest.
“I didn’t like our start,” Greyhounds Coach John Dean said. “Sudbury has a very good, aggressive forecheck and we knew it was coming. We experienced it last week. I thought, after (Thursday’s loss to North Bay), we might start a little harder. I was disappointed in the start.”
“Our last 40 minutes was really good hockey,” Dean added. “We adjusted well.”
Dean felt the Greyhounds “did a good job in the second and third periods of taking away their five-man forecheck.”
The Greyhounds took the lead for good with a pair of goals in the final five minutes of the second period to break a 4-4 tie and the Greyhounds ability to break games open offensively wasn’t lost on Wolves forward MacAuley Carson.
“We’re getting into the run-and-gun offence too much and that fits into their style, which is what they’re really good at,” Wolves forward MacAuley Carson said in an interview with Eastlink TV between the second and third period. “They’ve always had a team that can have success in transition and we’re not a team like that. We like to get pucks in deep and work on their defencemen.”
The Greyhounds proceeded to seal the win with four more goals in the final 20 minutes.
“We just have to make sure we’re extremely consistent in our play,” Dean said. “We saw what we’re capable of in the last 40 minutes. We want to be a team that does that consistently. And I’m not talking about scoring 10 goals but when we decide to paly hard and really compete, we’re capable of doing things like what we did in the last 40 minutes.”
Jaromir Pytlik paced the Greyhounds with three goals and an assist.
“He has confidence and he’s getting used to the league,” Dean said. “He’s going to be a special player. You can tell he’s really starting to get used to the team, the system, and the players he’s playing with. There’s a trust factor with his linemates.”
“He really plays like a professional,” Dean added. “He’s really hard on pucks. He drives to the net. Everything gets finished really crisp. He earned that night tonight.”
Pytlik’s linemates also had big nights as Morgan Frost assisted on four goals and Keeghan Howdeshell chipped in with a goal and two assists.
Playing his second game since returning from injury on Thursday, Jaden Peca scored twice for the Greyhounds.
“In North Bay, in the first couple periods, I felt a little bit winded because I haven’t played in game situations but towards the third period, I fit in well,” Peca said. “(Friday), I felt really good.”
“Jaden is all about energy,” Dean said. “When he’s in the lineup, whatever line he’s with immediately gets better because he’s so relentless on the puck. He really loves the game. He’s fun to be around. He’s fun on the bench. He’s got more skill than people realize. He’s a double threat because he’s got some skill and he also competes really hard.”
Overage defencemen Jordan Sambrook and Mac Hollowell and veteran forward Cole MacKay had a goal and two assists each. Ryan Roth had a goal and an assist for the Greyhounds.
Barrett Hayton assisted on three goals.
With starter Matthew Villalta out of the lineup, rookie Ethan Taylor got the start for the Greyhounds and made 34 saves in the victory.
Dean said Friday night Villalta could potentially be ready to play when the Greyhounds ready to play when the Greyhounds return to action on Tuesday when the Greyhounds host the Sarnia Sting.
Dean did say the extra time off has its advantages.
“It’s big considering we have the game on Tuesday,” Dean said. “Those two days off couldn’t have been timed much better.”
Adam Ruzicka and Quinton Byfield had two goals each to cap off the scoring for the Wolves.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got the start for the Wolves but was pulled after giving up eight goals on 30 shots.
Jonathan Lemaire made 11 saves on 13 shots in relief.
Friday’s win was big for the Greyhounds as the team maintained a three-point lead on the Saginaw Spirit atop the OHL’s West Division with a 36-12-6-1 record.
Saginaw was also in action on Friday, beating the Owen Sound Attack 6-1 at home. With a game in hand on the Greyhounds, the Spirit return to action on Saturday night at home against the Oshawa Generals before facing the Sarnia Sting in Sarnia on Monday afternoon.
The Greyhounds managed to gain a point on the London Knights in the battle for top spot in the OHL’s Western Conference on Friday as the Knights dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at home to the Erie Otters on Friday.
The Greyhounds sit four points behind the Knights.
Meanwhile, Sudbury, 34-17-2-1, remains in a battle with Oshawa and the Niagara IceDogs for positioning in the Eastern Conference.
The Wolves are tied with the IceDogs for top spot in the Central Division with 71 points each and sit two points behind Oshawa in the Eastern Conference standings.
In other action around the league on Friday night, in Saginaw, D.J. Busdeker had a pair of goals as Saginaw beat Owen Sound 6-1. Cole Perfetti and Owen Tippett had a goal and an assist each for Saginaw. Brady Gilmour assisted on a pair of Spirit goals.
In London, Jamie Drysdale scored the game-winner 19 seconds into overtime as Erie beat London 4-3. Chad Yetman and Maxim Golod had a goal and an assist each for Erie.
In Flint, Brett Neumann’s goal at 7:38 of the third period held up as the game-winner as the Oshawa Generals beat the Flint Firebirds 5-4. Neumann had two goals and an assist for the Generals. Ty Dellandrea scored twice for Flint.
In Kingston, Alan Lyszczarczyk had a goal, which was the eventual game-winner, and an assist as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Kingston Frontenacs 4-1. Kingston goaltender Brendan Bonello made 34 saves.
In Ottawa, Kyle Maksimovich scored three times as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 8-1. Sasha Chmelevski added two goals and an assist for the 67’s in the win.
In Sarnia, Curtis Douglas had two goals and two assists as the Windsor Spitfires beat the Sarnia Sting 7-4. Chris Playfair had two goals and an assist while Nathan Staios chipped in with a goal and two assists for Windsor.
In Guelph, Riley Damiani had a goal and two assists as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Guelph Storm 5-2. Rickard Hugg scored twice for the Rangers.
In other league news on Friday, the Niagara IceDogs were fined by the league on Friday and also lost a pair of draft picks following an investigation.
The team has been fined $250,000 and the league has taken away the IceDogs first round picks in the 2019 and 2021 OHL Priority Selection as the team has violated “certain league player-recruitment policies.”
The OHL had law firm Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP investigate.
“The league takes our commitment to our players and their player experience very seriously, which includes ensuring a fair and competitive on-ice experience among all teams,” OHL Commissioner David Branch said in a prepared statement. “In order to maintain the integrity of this player experience and competitiveness within the league, it is critical that all clubs operate within the league recruitment guidelines. When a club ignores these guidelines, significant sanctions are required.”
The team issued a statement in response and said it plans to appeal.
“All current Niagara IceDogs players and hockey operations staff have no involvement in the sanctions assessed today by the Ontario Hockey League. An appeal will be filed.”
The team also said no further comment will be made.