It was a battle between the top two teams in the Ontario Hokey League’s West Division and the Soo Greyhounds had little to be excited about when it was all over.
After Zack Trott scored 2:38 into action to give the Greyhounds the early lead, the Saginaw Spirit reeled off five-straight goals and proceeded to beat the Greyhounds 5-3 in OHL action at the GFL Memorial Gardens on Wednesday night.
The win pulls the Spirit into a tie for top spot with the Greyhounds in the OHL’s West Division in the process.
“They came out with a playoff-style mentality,” Greyhounds Coach John Dean said of the Spirit.
“It looked like they were in playoff mode and we might still be in regular season mode,” Dean added.
For the Spirit, the win comes at a key time as the two clubs face each other two more times before the completion of the OHL regular season on March 17.
“With and without the puck, it was probably our most complete game of the year,” said Saginaw Coach Chris Lazary. “We knew what was on the line. Our guys did a good job of showing up and just playing.”
“It wasn’t just one line,” Lazary also said. “As a group, we were exceptional with and without the puck, It’s a credit to our leadership. We try to stress that it’s a player-coached team and not a coach-coached team. They do a good job after meetings and when (the coaching staff) isn’t in the room of driving messages.”
The Spirit forced the Greyhounds to make plays and made life difficult in doing so in the game.
“We know they make plays and we wanted to make sure that if they’re going to make plays, they’re going to have to make them under pressure,” Lazary said. “They guys did a good job of reading off of each other and not duplicating plays.”
Dean spoke of the feeling that the Greyhounds made life more difficult on themselves while facing a highly-skilled team in Saginaw.
“We gifted them four goals and anytime you do that against a team that plays as well as (Saginaw), if you give them freebies, it’s going to be a long night,” Dean said.
Brady Gilmour, Albert Michnac, and Sault product Nicholas Porco had a goal and an assist to pace the Spirit offensively.
Reagan O’Grady and Damien Giroux had the other Saginaw goals.
Owen Tippett assisted on two goals for the Spirit.
Saginaw goaltender Ivan Prosvetov made 20 saves,
Greyhounds goaltender Matthew Villalta made 24 saves while Zack Trott, Robert Calisti and Cole MacKay completed the Sault scoring.
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 39-13-6-1.
The win improves the Spirit record to 40-15-2-3 as the team moves into a tie the division lead with the Greyhounds and the Spirit are focused on trying to win the division as opposed to looking further.
“We believe that we have the opportunity to do something special,” Lazary said. “Tonight is a step in the right direction and now we have to find a way to get a little bit better.”
For the Greyhounds, forward Barrett Hayton missed his fourth consecutive game due to a charley horse while rookie goaltender Ethan Taylor also missed the game after being injured on the road last week.
Both remain day-to-day and the status of both players for Friday’s game against the Oshawa Generals at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
Sault product Noah Zeppa served as the Greyhounds backup on Wednesday night.
After Friday night’s game against the Generals, the Greyhounds wrap up a three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against the Owen Sound Attack.
The team is set to play six of eight game at home to end the regular season.
The Spirit played Wednesday’s game without veteran forward Cole Coskey, who is out at least for the rest of the regular season due to a broken jaw suffered last week in a game against Saginaw.
Coskey was injured on a hit by Sarnia Sting forward Jamieson Rees, who was suspended for eight games as a result.
Defenceman Caleb Everett has been out most of the season due to injury while Hayden Davis and Danny Katic also missed Wednesday’s game due to injury.
In other action around the league on Wednesday, in Mississauga, Riley Damiani had a pair of goals, including the game-winner on the power play, as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Mississauga Steelheads 3-2. Joseph Garreffa had a goal and two assists for the Rangers.
In Erie, Cedric Ralph scored at 1:06 of overtime to give the Guelph Storm a 4-3 win over the Erie Otters. Dmitri Samorukov had a goal and two assists for the Storm.