After nearly two weeks away from game action, you’d be hard-pressed to find something not to like about their start in a return to game action for the Soo Greyhounds on Wednesday night.
They outshot their opponent 15-5 and opened up a 2-0 lead en route to a 5-3 Ontario Hockey League exhibition win over the Sudbury Wolves at Sudbury Community Arena.
For coach John Dean, the start was just about exactly what the team was looking for.
“(There was) clear intent on the guys to move their feet and get involved,” Dean said.
“We asked the guys to play loose, but very competitive and we did a really good job of that,” Dean said.
Despite the start to the contest being what it was, Dean said that it wasn’t an ideal game in some respects, but the players working on the systems implemented during practice stood out in the game.
“It’s a sloppy game, I’m sure both coaches would say,” Dean said. “I saw a lot of guys trying to compete and trying to make sure that we implemented the systems that we talked about the last two weeks, which was important, but try to do it in a way that didn’t restrict them, which is also important.”
“We want to let our team play with some freedom this year while maintaining a level of structure that safeguards us from really tough games,” Dean added. “Today, our guys did that. Our compete got us through the game.”
Dean added that he felt the Greyhounds “really showcased our speed really nicely tonight.”
Dean said the second period will be a lesson for the team as well.
“We mismanaged the puck and I think we thought it was going to be a bit of an easy night after the first,” Dean said, adding that he was pleased with the rebound in the third period.
Asked about the compete level of his team in Wednesday’s victory, Dean said it was something that stood out.
“I don’t think there’s a man that I can point out that didn’t compete hard tonight,’ Dean said.
“When you’re competing and making mistakes, the damage is usually minimal,” Dean added.
In the late stages of an opening-period power play, the Greyhounds got on the board first.
Veteran forward Jordan’ D’Intino moved to the net from the left side and beat Wolves goaltender Drew Gaulton from the lower-left circle at 2:24 of the first period.
The Greyhounds took a 2-0 lead later in the period when Justin Cloutier moved in on a breakaway and tucked a backhand high stick side up under the crossbar at 13:28.
Sudbury got on the board just under eight minutes into the second period when Devin Mauro broke in alone and beat Greyhounds goaltender Landon Miller glove side to pull the Wolves to within one.
Just 1:44 later, Greyhounds rookie Tate Vader skated into the Sudbury zone on a 2-on-1 and beat Gaulton with a shot glove side from the right circle to make it 3-1 Greyhounds.
On the power play, Sudbury cut the lead back down to one when Evan Konyen scored after taking a short pass from Nicholas Yearwood with 1:38 to go in the period. The goal came after Miller made the initial stop on the play on Sudbury’s Kieron Walton.
Brady Martin restored the two-goal lead with 13:32 to go in the third period and the Greyhounds on the power play. The rookie forward went to the net and scored on a rebound in tight, beating Sudbury goaltender Nate Krawchuk after the Wolves netminder stopped a shot by Ethan Montroy from the left wing.
The Greyhounds took a three-goal lead 48 seconds later when Christopher Brown beat Krawchuk from the left circle after Brenden Sirizzotti forced a turnover below the goalline.
With Krawchuk on the bench for an extra attacker and on the power play, the Wolves made it a two-goal game when a point shot by Jakub Chromiak beat Miller with 3:30 to go in regulation time.
D’Intino, Vader, and Martin finished the night with a goal and an assist each for the Greyhounds.
Miller made 26 saves in the win.
Both teams lost a pair of players in the final minute of the opening period when a skirmish broke out in front of the Sudbury bench prior to a faceoff outside the Wolves zone. After Wolves forward Landon McCallum grabbed at the neck of Greyhounds forward Alex Kostov, the latter proceeded to drop his gloves in an attempt to fight the Wolves forward but wound up fighting Chase Coughlan instead with McCallum jumping in later.
Meanwhile, D’Intino squared off on the play with Nathan Villeneuve of Sudbury.
All five players received game misconducts as a result of their fights.
Kostov was given a pair of fighting majors for his role and a game misconduct for second fight, same stoppage.
D’Intino, McCallum, and Villeneuve received similar misconducts on the play.
Whether D’Intino and Kostov will miss time due to suspension as a result of the second fight misconducts remained up in the air following Wednesday’s game.
Mauro had a goal and an assist for Sudbury while Walton assisted on a pair of goals.
Gaulton stopped 14 shots for the Wolves in just under 30 minutes of work while Krawchuk stopped 14 shots as well the rest of the way.
Veterans Bryce McConnell-Barker (New York Rangers), Kirill Kudryavtsev (Vancouver Canucks), Andrew Gibson (Detroit Red Wings), and Connor Clattenburg (Ottawa Senators) along with rookie Arttu Karki (Vegas Golden Knights) missed Wednesday’s game while remaining at NHL camps.
Dean said their status remains up in the air as far as any of the five returning for the weekend.
The Greyhounds will wrap up the exhibition season with a pair of weekend games against the Saginaw Spirit.
The teams will open the home-and-home set on Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie before meeting again 24 hours later in Saginaw.