The Soo Greyhounds continue to find ways to win hockey games when it matters.
Conor Timmins took a feed from Taylor Raddysh and beat Kitchener Rangers goaltender Mario Culina with 0.1 seconds on the clock to give the Greyhounds a 3-2 win and an early lead in the Ontario Hockey League Western Conference final.
The shorthanded marker came on a clean faceoff win by Morgan Frost with 3.5 seconds to go.
“That was definitely a great feeling,” Timmins said. “Rads made a great pass.”
“We want to gain as much momentum as we can in the series,” Timmins said. “To get one late like that going into game two is going to be huge for our team.”
The Greyhounds went on the penalty kill after a bench minor for too many men, the second too many men penalty of the game for the Greyhounds, with 1:12 to go in regulation time. Frost would win the faceoff to Raddysh, who hit Timmins pinching in on the right wing.
Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister felt the team was a little bit “flat” in the win.
“We have to ramp up the intensity,” Bannister said. “I didn’t think we were that focused. Our execution wasn’t where it needs to be to play against a team like that.”
Timmins paced the Greyhounds offensively with a pair of goals while Jack Kopacka had the other goal for the Greyhounds. Defenceman Rasmus Sandin assisted on a pair of goals.
Matthew Villalta made 18 saves.
“Matthew settled into the game,” Bannister said. “He was a little bit shaky early on. As the (game) went on he looked a lot more comfortable in the net. There were a couple of key saves that he had to make for us.”
Givani Smith and Connor Bunnaman scored for the Rangers. Adam Mascherin and Kole Sherwood assisted on both goals for the Rangers.
“We did a pretty good job at limiting their chances,” said Rangers Coach Jay McKee. “We want to keep them on the outside. They’re a highly-skilled team that was able to generate goal scoring in the regular season at a pretty good clip.”
The focus now shifts to game two for the Rangers, which is Saturday night at the Essar Centre.
“For us it’s about regrouping in a hurry,” McKee said. “We can take solace in the fact that it was a good hockey game that could have went either way.”
Goaltender Mario Culina, a Sault product, made 29 saves for the Rangers.
“Mario has been great since we acquired him,” McKee said. “He’s a guy who has given us a chance to win every night. You can count on one hand how many games he would like to have back. He gives the guys a lot of confidence in front of him.”
For the Rangers McKee said veteran defenceman Austin McEneny did not make the trip and will not be available for game two.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, the Hamilton Bulldogs took a 2-0 series lead on the Kingston Frontenacs thanks to a 7-1 win on home ice.
Robert Thomas paced the Bulldogs with a goal and two assists while Nicholas Caamano and Ryan Moore had a goal and an assist each. Benjamin Gleason and Marian Studenic assisted on two goals each for Hamilton.
The series now shifts to Kingston for game three on Sunday evening.