It was redemption for the Soo Greyhounds on Tuesday night.
Thanks to three first period goals in a span of 61 seconds in a four-goal opening period, the Greyhounds picked up a series-clinching 9-7 victory over the Owen Sound Attack in game seven of their Ontario Hockey League Western Conference semifinal series.
The game seven victory means the Greyhounds advance to the Western Conference final, which begins this weekend against the Kitchener Rangers.
Boris Katchouk paced the Greyhounds with three goals and an assist, including a shorthanded marker late in the opening period to make the game 4-1.
“That was a really big goal for us to add a little bit of separation going into the second period,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister.
Bannister also called a goal by Noah Carroll in the opening period, a marker that tied the game 1:20 after Owen Sound’s Brett McKenzie had opened the scoring, a key point in the game as well.
“That was a good response from our group,” Bannister said. “After they scored, we loosened up a little bit and got on their goalie.”
Attack Coach Todd Gill called the early offensive outburst by the Greyhounds a difference in the game.
“Give them credit, they were ready and pounced on our mistakes,” Gill said.
Taylor Raddysh chipped in with a goal and three assists while Morgan Frost assisted on three goals. Carroll had two goals for the Greyhounds. Barrett Hayton would chip in with a goal and an assist while Hayden Verbeek and Ryan Roth also scored.
“I thought our top players would come to play and they did,” Bannister said. “If your top players come to play, your depth players usually follow suit.”
Matthew Villalta made 29 saves for the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds picked up the victory on the heels of a 7-1 loss in game six that forced Tuesday’s deciding game.
“(Tonight) we were ready to play, and our big guys came to play tonight,” Bannister said. “And when they come to play, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Trailing 8-3, Owen Sound would make the game close thanks to three goals in 2:50 to make it 8-6 before the teams traded goals in the final two minutes to round out the scoring.
“The game was out of hand with 10 minutes left and they were jumping five and six guys, I’m not too worried about it,” Bannister said of the Attack making the game close.
Bannister also said he feels like the series with the Attack “will make us a better team.”
“Owen Sound is a really good team that pushed us hard,” Bannister added. “We faced adversity, whether it was from there or external people that made decisions. We pushed through it and we’ll be better for it moving forward.”
Sean Durzi paced the Attack offensively with two goals and three assists while Brett McKenzie added two goals and an assist. Kevin Hancock also had a three-point night for Owen Sound with a goal and two assists. Jacob Friend added a goal and an assist. Jonah Gadjovich also scored.
Rookie Mack Guzda got the start but was pulled after the Greyhounds third goal though he would re-enter the game for the second period and finish the game. He stopped 22 shots.
In the final six minutes of the opening period, Olivier Lafreniere made three saves.
“They kept battling,” Gill said of the Attack.
“Those kids in the room, I can’t say anything bad about them,” Gill also said. “Mistakes are going to happen. We could easily, when it was 4-1, quit and we didn’t.”
Markus Phillips, who missed game six due to injury, returned to the lineup, only to leave in the opening period after blocking a shot by Tim Gettinger.
“He’s been a huge part of our lineup this year,” Gill said. “When you lose a guy that’s playing 20+ minutes a game, all of a sudden someone else has to fill in and that’s tough on those guys because they’re not used to playing that type of minutes.”
Full details on the schedule for the series between the Greyhounds and Rangers had not been released at the time of writing but it was expected to start on Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
The OHL’s Eastern Conference final is set to open on Wednesday night in Hamilton between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Kingston Frontenacs.
The Bulldogs enter the series as the top seed while Kingston finished third.
In a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton Coach John Gruden called the Frontenacs something new for the Bulldogs after early-round wins over Ottawa and Niagara.
“This is going to be a new challenge for our group,” Gruden said. “They’re a team that, if you’re not taking care of your own end and you’re not taking care of the puck well in certain areas of the ice and it ends up on one of their talented forwards sticks, it’s going to be a problem.”
For Kingston Coach Jay Varady, Hamilton is a “mix” of their early round opponents – North Bay and Barrie.
“They have extremely talented forwards and defencemen,” Varady said. “They’re also competitive. As we’re moving forward through the playoffs, we’re facing an opponent that’s a combination of both North Bay and Barrie.”