They had their opposition questioning themselves but, in the end, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Soo Greyhounds bid to erase a 3-0 series deficit came to an end on Sunday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens in a 5-0 loss to the Saginaw Spirit in Ontario Hockey League playoff action.
For the Spirit, the win means a berth in the Western Conference final.
“They Soo Greyhounds did a good job getting this to 3-2,” said Saginaw coach Chris Lazary. “They put us on our heels. We started to question ourselves a little bit and think, ‘Are we good enough to get it done?’”
“We talked about this being a business trip and the sole purpose of this trip was to play for the team and not the individual,” Lazary added. “For two hours of your life put the team first and see what could happen.”
For the Greyhounds, some missed opportunities early on made it tough to grab momentum in the game.
“We had a few opportunities in the first period that we didn’t capitalize on,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “Usually the team that scores first gets the energy and we didn’t. We had some missed opportunities in general. There were opportunities to take momentum and we didn’t.”
“We battled right to the end,” Dean added. “We dug ourselves too deep a hole both in the series and in the game.”
The Spirit took a 1-0 lead three minutes into the second period when Sault native Nicholas Porco went to the net and redirected a feed from fellow Saultite Camaryn Baber to open the scoring.
The Greyhounds had an opportunity to get on the board on the power play with Saginaw’s D.J. Busdeker serving a double-minor for high sticking but the Greyhounds couldn’t capitalize and late in the frame, Ryan McLeod would made it 2-0 Saginaw.
“It was a critical moment in the game that we didn’t capitalize on,” Dean said. “It could have been a turning point for us (with a goal), but it wasn’t. They did a good job on the penalty kill.”
“That was a big opportunity (for the Greyhounds),” Lazary said. “We did a good job being in lanes and blocking shots.”
“(Darren Rumble) has done a phenomenal job running the penalty kill since he came over,” Lazary also said.
Lazary called Sunday’s game “one of the best games we’ve played away from the puck all year.”
“We were stingy and when we did break down, we had layers and if they got through the layers, we had goaltending. We did a good job.”
Sunday marked a disappointing end to what was a successful season overall for the Greyhounds.
Dean credited the play of the Greyhounds veterans over the course of the season including the likes of overage forward Keeghan Howdeshell, overage defencemen Mac Hollowell and Jordan Sambrook, along with the likes of veterans Morgan Frost, Barrett Hayton and Matthew Villalta.
“I’m disappointed for the guys more than anything,” Dean said. “As a first-year coach, what those older kids did for me, especially in my first 15 to 20 games, they helped bring me along and the staff along. I don’t think our team gets 96 points without some pretty special kids.”
“Those guys really made my job easy,” Dean added. “I’m disappointed for those guys because they put it all on the line.
Damien Giroux, Bode Wilde and Jake Goldowski also scored for the Spirit.
Goaltender Ivan Prosvetov made 34 saves for the shutout.
Villalta made 21 saves for the Greyhounds.
For the Spirit, the team now plays the waiting game as it awaits the winner of game seven between the London Knights and Guelph Storm. The winner of that game will get the Spirit in the Western Conference final.
The Greyhounds and Spirit were the lone game in the OHL on Sunday, but a pair of series were in action on Saturday.
In St. Catharines, Danil Antropov’s goal at 7:01 of the third period was the game winner as the Oshawa Generals beat the Niagara IceDogs 3-1 and took a 3-2 series lead in the process. Generals goaltender Kyle Keyser made 36 saves. The series shifts to Oshawa for game six on Monday night.
In Guelph, the Storm scored a pair of goals late in the second period before Domenico Commisso scored the eventual game-winning goal 1:50 into the third period in a 5-3 win over the Knights. The win forced a game seven on Tuesday night between the two Midwest Division rivals. Nick Suzuki had a goal and two assists for the Storm.