A struggle through 40 minutes means the Soo Greyhounds will fight for their playoff lives on Sunday afternoon.
The Greyhounds fell behind through two periods and a late push wasn’t enough to avoid dropping game five of their Ontario Hockey League championship series against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Hamilton led 4-1 heading into the third period en route to what was a 6-4 win to take a 3-2 series lead over the Greyhounds heading back to Hamilton for game six on Sunday afternoon.
“It was a difficult 40 minutes for us where we weren’t able to get anything going,” said Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister. “Hamilton put a lot of pressure on us and exposed some of the mistakes we made in the game.”
Bannister called the first two periods the difference in the game.
“We didn’t come out with the right attitude in the first two periods,” said Greyhounds defenceman Conor Timmins.
With much of the team struggling in the loss, Bannister also said “we had a lot of players not show up tonight.”
Bannister did credit the play of goaltender Matthew Villalta, who made 28 saves for the Greyhounds.
“Matty was excellent for us,” Bannister said. “He was one guy who really came to play for us tonight.”
Jack Kopacka paced the Greyhounds offensively with a goal and an assist while Barrett Hayton set up a pair of goals. Keeghan Howdeshell and Boris Katchouk also scored.
Robert Thomas paced the Bulldogs with a pair of goals.
“My linemates gave me some great passes and made it easy for me,” Thomas said. “It was a good team effort.”
Brandon Saigeon had a goal and two assists for Hamilton while Connor Walters and Arthur Kaliyev also assisted on a pair of goals. Mackenzie Edwards, Ryan Moore, and Nicholas Caamano also scored.
Kaden Fulcher made 30 saves for the Bulldogs.
Hamilton Coach John Gruden was pleased with much of the game, especially the opening two periods.
“We played extremely well for 50 minutes,” Gruden said. “We were really good at the beginning of the third and then (the Greyhounds) started waking up.”
“It’s a really good win for our players and I’m really proud of them,” Gruden added. “They got the job done.”
With the Greyhounds pushing in the third period, the Bulldogs would take a timeout and Gruden’s message was to “take a deep breath.”
“Sometimes it’s just better to take a deep breath and reset,” Gruden said. “We had played so well. Let’s just get back to what we were doing and get the job done.”
Puck drop for Sunday’s sixth game is 2 p.m. at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton. A win by the Bulldogs would send the team to the MasterCard Memorial Cup, which begins next weekend in Regina, Sask. A Greyhounds win forces a seventh and deciding game, scheduled for Monday night at 7:07 p.m. the Essar Centre.