The process is the key as the Soo Greyhounds head into the final week of the Ontario Hockey League regular season.
The team sits three points out of top spot in the OHL’s West Division after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday afternoon at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Greyhounds gain a point on the Saginaw Spirit in the West Division standings but the Spirit hold a game in hand as the regular season winds down.
Nathan Staios scores the game-winner for the Spitfires Sunday as he beat forward Ryan Roth in the right faceoff circle before going to the net and beating Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta high short side.
The game saw the Greyhounds take the play to the Spitfires in the third period.
“I really liked our third period,” said Dean. “We showed the swagger that we’ve been asking for for the last couple of games. It was really nice to see that push and how bad the guys wanted it.”
“We deserved a better fate,” Dean added. “The first 40 minutes was pretty even.”
The win snaps a seven-game losing skid for Windsor.
“We’ve been playing good hockey but finding ways to lose games,” said Windsor Coach Trevor Letowski. “Guys dug really deep for being shorthanded. We were well aware they were missing two of the top players in the league and started their backup. It was a game that we felt if we were at the top of our game, we could steal.”
“We needed to lean on our leadership and that’s what really came through,” Letowski also said.
Veteran forward Cole Purboo had two goals and an assist while Luke Boka also had a goal for the Spitfires.
Veteran netminder Colton Incze stopped 32 shots for Windsor.
Rookie Ethan Taylor got the start for the Greyhounds but was pulled after giving up three goals on 17 shots.
Rust was a factor as the young netminder had limited practice time before getting the start.
“He’s just coming back from injury and those are tough games,” Dean said. “I’m sure if you ask him, he’d want a couple of those back. It’s a tough night for him because we put him in a spot where he just came back and only had a couple of practices under his belt and we’re trying to rest Matty (Villalta). In a perfect world, we probably would have gotten a little more practice action for (Taylor).”
Villalta stopped 12 of 13 shots the rest of the way for the Greyhounds.
Keeghan Howdeshell had a pair of goals for the Greyhounds.
Zack Trott added a goal and an assist while Cole MacKay assisted on a pair of goals for the Greyhounds.
The Greyhounds played Sunday’s game without forwards Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton.
Frost missed the game after receiving a major penalty and game misconduct for a cross check on Sarnia’s Nick Grima on Saturday night.
The play is expected to be reviewed on Monday by the OHL office.
Hayton remains out due to a charley horse and is day-to-day.
Dean said he hopes to get Hayton into action when the team wraps up the regular season next weekend as opposed to having the veteran return to the lineup in the midst of the playoffs.
Dean credited the play of the likes of Trott, MacKay, and Joe Carroll among others in the game as the players moved into unfamiliar positions.
“We put these guys in a tough spot and we need those guys to carry that swagger when we have a full lineup,” Dean said. “If we do that, I like the way we look going into the playoffs.”
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 41-16-7-1 while the Spitfires improve to 25-33-5-3 and remain in a battle with the Erie Otters and Sarnia Sting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference.
The Greyhounds wrap up the regular season with three games next week, beginning on Thursday night when the team is in Saginaw to take on the Spirit.
The team will then end the season with a pair of home games, beginning Friday night against the London Knights.
In other action around the OHL on Sunday, in St. Catharines, Ben Jones’ power play goal at 14:31 of the second period held up as the game-winning goal as the Niagara IceDogs beat the Barrie Colts 4-3. Jones had a goal and two assists for Niagara. Ryan Suzuki had a goal and two assists for Barrie.
In North Bay, Adam Timleck had a goal and three assists as the Peterborough Petes beat the North Bay Battalion 6-5. Liam Kirk scored three times for Peterborough. Theo Calvas had two goals and an assist while Justin Brazeau had a goal and two assists for North Bay.
In Guelph, Riley Damiani had a goal and three assists as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Guelph Storm 5-2. Greg Meireles added a goal and two assists for Kitchener.
In Oshawa, Kody Clark had a goal and three assists as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Oshawa Generals 4-0. Michael DiPietro stopped 22 shot for the shutout. Tye Fehaber has two goals and an assist