Coming off a disappointing finish to a long road trip on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa, the Soo Greyhounds were looking for a better effort in a return to home ice and that’s exactly what they got.
With Sunday’s loss in the rear-view mirror, the Greyhounds returned home for just their second game at the GFL Memorial Gardens this season and picked up a 4-1 Ontario Hockey League win over the Flint Firebirds Wednesday night.
“You want a bounce-back game after every loss but Ottawa, we felt like we were back on our heels in that game,” said Greyhounds Coach John Dean. “To come back and to put a team on their heels is a good feeling.”
Dean said the Greyhounds puck management offensively was a positive in the game.
“It’s the first time all year we managed the puck properly in the offensive zone and that we’ve done it for 60 minutes,” said Dean. “When we were in trouble, we didn’t default to a cute play, we defaulted to the safe puck-management play.”
On the flip side, the Firebirds came away from Wednesday disappointed with their effort.
“With our group, the one thing that’s going to climb us out of this is work ethic and that’s what we’re going to continue to strive for,” said Flint Coach Ryan Oulahen.
“I didn’t think it was good enough (against the Greyhounds),” Oulahen also said. “If you look at the identity of our group over the last couple of years, we’re a hard-working team and we have to get to that identity to have success.”
Making his return to the lineup after missing the first part of the season while with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, Barrett Hayton had a goal and two assists for the Greyhounds in his season debut.
“He brings a whole new dynamic,” Dean said. “Our power play looked better. He wins faceoffs and brings energy to the game.”
Morgan Frost also had a goal and two assists for the Greyhounds in what Dean said was “his best game all year.”
Cole MacKay and Keeghan Howdeshell also scored for the Greyhounds.
Goaltender Matthew Villalta made 21 saves.
Four Oulahen, limiting time and space is something the Firebirds feel they need to do to have success and it was something they had difficulty with on Wednesday.
“This (the Greyhounds) is a divisional team and they’re built on speed and skill and getting Barrett Hayton back in the lineup, you have two of the best players in the league on one team (Hayton and Frost),” Oulahen said. “It’s not so much physicality, but you try to limit time and space. We feel like when we play to our strengths, that’s how we have to be.”
Eric Uba had the lone Flint goal.
Firebirds goaltender Emanuel Vella made 37 saves.
The Greyhounds 4-3-1-0 with the victory.
“I said to the guys that the one nice part is, no matter who you’re playing you want to see your team play the same way,” Dean said. “And we’ve got a lot of good video to show the guys now. Over the first seven games, it was a lot of constructive video and now it’s a lot of positive video to show.”
The Greyhounds return to action on Friday night at home against the Kitchener Rangers. Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens is set for 7:07 p.m.
Wednesday saw one other game on the OHL schedule as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Kingston Frontenacs 4-1 at TD Place in Ottawa. Tye Felhaber had a goal and two assists to pace the 67’s offensively.