There was a lot to like for the Soo Greyhounds on Friday night.
With the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, the Greyhounds picked up a 4-3 win over the Windsor Spitfires at the GFL Memorial Gardens as they battle for top spot in the OHL’s Western Conference.
With special teams making it difficult to distribute ice time at times, Friday was a game in which the Greyhounds didn’t have any passengers.
“It was a very good game by us,” said Greyhounds Coach John Dean. “To a man, everyone worked extremely hard. It was a difficult game in terms of special teams, so some guys got the short end of the stick on ice time but when they got out there, they made the most of their opportunity.”
Dean also spoke of the players willingness to block shots, be it on the penalty kill of in the late stages of the game with the Spitfires looking to tie the game and force overtime.
“We had our three top goal scorers on the ice blocking shots at the end of the game,” Dean said. “It’s a testament to them that they want to win a lot of hockey games going forward.”
Morgan Frost paced the Greyhounds with two goals and two assists offensively.
Barrett Hayton added a goal and two assists while Keeghan Howdeshell chipped in with a goal and an assist for the locals.
Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta stopped 21 shots.
Luke Boka had a power play goal for the Spitfires while veteran Cole Purboo and rookie Will Cuylle also scored.
“We had a plan to really establish the forecheck early and have a physical presence and we showed that. They knew they were in a game from the start,” said Windsor Coach Trevor Letowski. “The penalties hurt our tempo a little bit and (the Greyhounds) started to take the game over.”
“They pushed us through two, but I liked our response in the third,” Letowski added. “We pushed back and gave ourselves a chance to steal the game.”
Dean said the physical style the Spitfires played wasn’t something that was a detriment for the Greyhounds.
“That’s the most physical a team has played against us all year,” Dean said. “We welcomed it because we need to go through those games where teams are going to try to bully us off the puck and work hard on us.”
Letowski added he felt the Spitfires “were chasing the game a bit” when the Greyhounds took the lead.
“It got to a point where (the Greyhounds) possession numbers were through the roof for two periods,” Letowski said. “This was a pretty big test for us on the road and we didn’t go away. I was proud of them for that.”
Windsor goaltender Colton Incze had a busy night, making 38 saves in the loss.
“He played well,” Letowski said, agreeing that the netminder gave the Spitfires a chance to win the game. “(The Greyhounds) top guys were very good tonight and we gave them too much room.”
Having won four consecutive games entering action Friday, the loss drops the Spitfires to 19-20-2-1 as the team battles for positioning in the OHL’s Western Conference with the Sarnia Sting and Kitchener Rangers.
With Friday’s win, the Greyhounds move three points ahead of the Saginaw Spirit for top spot in the OHL’s West Division with a 26-10-4-1 record.
Saginaw dropped a 4-1 decision to the London Knights on Friday. The win allows the Knights to maintain top spot in the Western Conference ahead of the Greyhounds, who return to action on Saturday night at home against the Mississauga Steelheads.
Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens on Saturday is set for 7:07 p.m.
Friday night saw Jaromir Pytlik make his debut with the Greyhounds, playing the wing on the Greyhounds top line with Howdeshell and Frost.
“You can see he knows how to play the game and that he’s a talent,” Dean said. “When you throw a kid on the top line like that, it can be a daunting task to come into a new team and all of a sudden you’re playing with Morgan Frost and Keeghan Howdeshell. It’s a tough thing to do to come in and play with world-class players like that.”
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, in London, Paul Cotter had a pair of goals as London beat Saginaw. After giving up the opening goal in the contest in the opening minute of the second period, the Knights proceeded to score four unanswered goals in the win.
In Erie, Petr Cajka scored at 3:56 of overtime to give the Erie Otters a 2-1 win over the Owen Sound Attack. Cajka had a goal and an assist for Erie.
In Flint, Matthew Strome scored 52 seconds into overtime as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Flint Firebirds 6-5. Strome finished the night with a goal and two assists, as did Logan Morrison. Arthur Kaliyev had two goals and an assist for Hamilton. Ty Dellandrea had a goal and two assists for Flint.
In St. Catharines, Akil Thomas had three goals and an assist as the Niagara IceDogs doubled up the Kingston Frontenacs 6-3. Ben Jones had a goal and two assists while Kirill Maksimov and Matt Brassard assisted on three goals each for Niagara.
In Sarnia, eight unanswered goals broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Ottawa 67’s a 10-2 win over the Sarnia Sting. Tye Felhaber had two goals and two assists for Ottawa. Marco Rossi, Sam Bitten, and Austen Keating had a goal and two assists each for Ottawa.
In Sudbury, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped all 19 shots he faced as the Sudbury Wolves blanked the Mississauga Steelheads 3-0. Jacob Ingham made 28 saves for Mississauga.
In Kitchener, Riley Damiani scored 13 seconds into overtime as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Guelph Storm 4-3. Joseph Garreffa assisted on three goals for the Rangers. Newly-acquired forward Nick Suzuki assisted on a pair of goals for Guelph.