For the Soo Greyhounds, the Ontario Hockey League season has come to a close but for a trio of players, it’s a chance to get some added experience at the professional level.
Greyhounds captain Blake Speers and defenceman Colton White were called up by the NHL’s New Jersey Devils to the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils. The players will join the team as it competes in the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.
Albany is currently in the midst of a series with the Toronto Marlies, coached by former Greyhounds bench boss Sheldon Keefe. Albany took a 1-0 series lead over the Marlies with a 3-0 win on Thursday night.
Also, Greyhounds defenceman Gustav Bouramman was called up to join the Minnesota Wild as the team brought up 16 players to join the team for the remainder of its playoff run as ‘Black Aces’. The group will practice and remain with the team. The Wild currently trail the St. Louis Blues 3-1 in their best-of-7 first round series with game five set for Saturday afternoon in Minnesota.
The OHL’s Eastern Conference final between the Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads kicked off on Thursday night at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
Michael McLeod had a goal and three assists as the Steelheads opened the series with a 5-3 win over the Petes. Spencer Watson added a pair of goals while Ryan McLeod had a goal and an assist. Owen Tippett also scored.
The win improves the Steelheads record on the road to 7-0 in the playoffs.
“The boys are playing really well,” Mississauga Coach James Richmond told reporters in the post-game press conference. “It doesn’t seem to matter where they’re playing, they’re ready to play.”
Steven Lorentz and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev had a goal and two assists each for the Petes. Nikita Korostelev added a goal and an assist.
“Mississauga brought exactly what we thought,” said Petes Coach Jody Hull during the post-game press conference. “They come with a lot of speed and they generate a lot off the rush. We had our moments too offensively and opportunities.”
The Western Conference final between the Erie Otters and Owen Sound Attack is set to open on Friday night at Erie Insurance Arena.
The Otters, with Garden River, Ont. product Owen Headrick, advanced thanks to a 4-3 series win over the London Knights in round two. Warren Foegele scored in overtime of the seventh game to give the Otters the series victory.
Owen Sound advanced thanks to a six-game series win over the Soo Greyhounds in the second round. After falling behind 2-0, the Attack reeled off four-straight wins to advance.
Erie Coach Kris Knoblauch spoke highly of Headrick after the defenceman made the jump from Lake Superior State to play in Erie in January.
“Owen has made our defensive corps a lot stronger,” Knoblauch said. “He’s really rounded off our top six.
“He’s moved onto one of our power play units and he’s come up with some big goals,” Knoblauch added. “He plays very similar to Darren Raddysh’s game. We were very fortunate to have him join us.”
In 26 regular season games, Headrick scored four goals and eight points and has one assist in 11 playoff games.
Erie captain Dylan Strome said the Otters have a little extra pressure as the team entered the playoffs coming off its fourth consecutive 50-win regular season and making its fourth appearance in the Western Conference final.
“There’s a little bit of extra pressure on us being here for the fourth time,” he affirmed. “I wouldn’t say we’ve underachieved in our past playoff runs. I think the combined record of the teams that have eliminated us in past years (Guelph ’14, Oshawa ’15, London ’16) is 11-1 at the Memorial Cup, so we’ve had to face some pretty good opponents.
“Hopefully this is our year. We’ve been looking forward to it for awhile. We wanted to get back to this spot and go even further.”
Owen Sound Coach Ryan McGill said he is looking forward to facing the Otters.
“I look forward to this series because it’s going to be a hockey series,” McGill continued. “It’s going to be hard-fought, fast-paced and won and lost in the faceoff circle. It’s going to be a hockey series – no gimmicks. Playing hard between the whistles.”
With the conference finals’ in full swing, the OHL has begun to announce its year-end award winners. On Thursday, the league announced McGill as its coach of the year while Guelph Storm defenceman Ryan Merkley earned rookie of the year honours on Wednesday.
In addition, Merkley was named to the all-rookie first team along with Oshawa centre Allan McShane, Kingston winger Linus Nyman, Niagara winger Akil Thomas, defenceman Eemeli Rasanen of Kingston and goaltender Jacob Ingham of Mississauga.
The all-rookie second team featured Soo Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta, defencemen Owen Lalonde of Sudbury and Giovanni Vallati of Kitchener, centre Adam Ruzicka of Sarnia, right winger Greg Meireles of Kitchener and left winger Alex Formenton of London.