On a night when two points would be a huge lift for a team battling for a playoff spot, a tough start and an inability to capitalize on scoring chances were too much to overcome for the Soo Greyhounds.
Playing in the second game of a home-and-home series with the Saginaw Spirit, the Greyhounds dropped a 5-1 decision to their West Division rival in Ontario Hockey League action at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw on Saturday night.
The Greyhounds struggled to carry over what went well in Friday’s game against the Spirit, a game the Greyhounds lost but found themselves happy with the effort in the game
“It was a tough start,” Greyhounds coach John Dean said of Saturday’s game. “It’s a tough way to start, especially after (Friday) night’s tough loss I thought we might come out stronger. We came out a little passive. Credit to Saginaw, they came out with a really solid start and controlled the puck really well.”
Veteran Greyhounds defenceman Jacob LeGuerrier said Saturday’s effort “wasn’t good enough.”
“It came down to one-on-one battles, they were out-working us,” LeGuerrier said.
LeGuerrier, who had the lone goal for the Greyhounds Saturday, agreed it was tough not being able to carry Friday’s effort over.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow for sure,” LeGuerrier said. “(On Friday), we had a good 40 to 50 minutes. We slipped up in the third and that cost us. Tonight, it just wasn’t the same game at all for us.”
The Greyhounds went with Nick Malik in goal Saturday and the rookie netminder made 31 saves in the loss.
“He was great again,” Dean said. “He played a solid game and kept us in it. He was really confident when playing the puck.”
Dean said the decision to go back with Malik for the second consecutive night instead of going back to overage Bailey Brkin was a tough one.
“Bailey’s done such a great job for us since he’s come here,” Dean said, adding that he wanted to “see how Nick responds to a back-to-back. He was really sharp yesterday and I hoped he would carry that into tonight’s game, which he did.”
Dean added that Brkin handled the decision well.
“He went out and took the pre-game and worked as hard as he usually does,” Dean said.
Playing with five defencemen for both games due to injuries, the Spirit came out of Saturday’s game pleased.
“Our guys showed some resiliency playing with a short lineup on the back end,” Spirit associate coach Jared Nightingale said in an interview with the Spirit television broadcast.
The Spirit played both games of the home-and-home set without veteran defencemen D.J. King and Reilly Webb due to injuries.
“Those are two anchors,” Nightingale said. “That’s why I’m really proud of the guys, especially the defencemen that logged those minutes."
Saginaw’s top line of Cole Perfetti, Ryan Suzuki, and Cole Coskey combined for 10 points in Friday’s game but were held off the scoresheet in Saturday’s contest
“You can’t rely on one line every night,” Nightingale said. “To have success at any level, you need depth.”
D.J. Busdeker paced the Spirit offensively in Saturday’s game with a pair of goals and an assist.
Blade Jenkins chipped in with a goal and an assist while Dalton Duhart and Danil Antropov had the other Spirit goals.
Goaltender Marshall Frappier stopped 21 shots.
The Greyhounds fall to 20-21-2-0 with the loss and sit four points behind the Erie Otters for the final playoff spot in the OHL’s Western Conference. The Otters are currently tied with the Owen Sound Attack and Flint Firebirds with 46 points.
The Greyhounds will face the Firebirds on Wednesday night in a 7:07 p.m. start at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Spirit (27-12-2-2) sit tied for first in the Western Conference with the Kitchener Rangers, who also won on Saturday night.
In other action around the league on Saturday, in Ottawa, Jack Quinn scored three times as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-0. Mitchell Hoelscher had two goals and two assists for the 67’s. Goaltender Will Cranley made 27 saves for the shutout.
In Sarnia, Quinton Byfield’s power play goal at 11:12 of the third period was the difference as the Sudbury Wolves beat the Sarnia Sting 5-4. Byfield had a goal and three assists for the Wolves. Matej Pekar and Blake Murray chipped in with a goal and two assists each for Sudbury. Jacob Perreault scored twice for Sarnia.
In Guelph, Greg Meireles had a pair of goals as the Kitchener Rangers doubled p the Guelph Storm 6-3. Liam Hawel, Jonathan Yantsis, and Declan McDonnell had a goal and an assist each for the Rangers. Holden Wale assisted on two goals for Kitchener.
In St. Catharines, Luke Moncada had all three goals as the North Bay Battalion beat the Niagara IceDogs 3-1.
In Peterborough, Hunter Jones made 30 saves as the Peterborough Petes blanked the Flint Firebirds 2-0. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev had a goal and an assist for Peterborough. Flint goaltender Anthony Popovich made 36 saves.
In Windsor, Daniel D’Amico’s goal at 8:33 of the third period was the game-winner as the Windsor Spitfires beat the Erie Otters 4-3. Curtis Douglas had a goal and an assist for Windsor.
In Barrie, Nicholas Canade had three goals and an assist as the Mississauga Steelheads beat the Barrie Colts 5-2. James Hardie had a goal and an assist for the Steelheads. Tyson Foerster had both goals for Barrie.
Saturday’s other game between the Owen Sound Attack and Oshawa Generals at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound was postponed due to weather. The game has been rescheduled for Monday night.
In other schedule news, Friday’s game between Hamilton and the Kingston Frontenacs in Kingston, which was postponed due to an ice plant issue at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston, has also been rescheduled for Monday night.