A slow start means the Soo Greyhounds are behind early in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
A pair of power play goals in the opening period gave the Owen Sound Attack a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes and the team eventually squeezed out an opening-game 4-3 overtime win over the Greyhounds on Thursday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The start made a difference in the contest as the Greyhounds had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime before Maksim Sushko scored the game-winner in the extra frame.
“They caught us on our heels, there’s no doubt about that,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “We got better as the game went on but that’s the nature of the playoffs. You have to play a full 60 minutes and in this case 80 minutes.”
“In the second half of the game we had a lot of good pressure and a lot of good opportunities,” Dean also said. You could feel like it was starting to tilt in our favour. When you start slow like that and the other team is grinding and they’re getting their faces in front of shots and blocking shots, They built some confidence. They went to the wall for their goaltender.”
Owen Sound coach Alan Letang said he was proud of his team following the win.
“We talked about the little things you need to do in the playoffs like blocking shots and being desperate,” Letang said. “We knew they were going to have their pushes and we buckled down when they had that pressure on. We’ve got a lot of ice bags in (the dressing room) and that’s usually what it takes to win a playoff game.”
Earlier in the week, Letang spoke of how special teams would play a role in the Attack having success against the Greyhounds. On Thursday, Owen Sound had three power play goals in the win and finished the night 3-for-5 on the man advantage.
“There were times where we struggled (on the power play) but we knew we had the right personnel there and it was about that execution and getting shots to the net,” Letang said. “Tonight, our net-front guy had a screen the whole night so it made it tough for their goalie to see around a lot of traffic. That’s really what you want to create.”
“The second and third (power play goals), we had a couple of missed assignments and that’s something we’ll go over (on Friday) as a team,” Dean said.
Owen Sound goaltender Mack Guzda made 43 saves, including 13 in the third period when the Attack were outshot 13-4.
“He held us in there when they had the push in the second period and even at times in the third the ice felt tilted,” Letang said. “He was composed, and he was calm. He didn’t give up too many rebounds.”
Sushko finished the night with two goals and an assist for Owen Sound while Barret Kirwin assisted on three goals.
Zach Poirier had a goal and an assist. Kaleb Pearson had the other goal for the Attack.
Keeghan Howdeshell had a goal and an assist for the Greyhounds. Morgan Frost also had a two-point night with a pair of assists.
Jaromir Pytlik and Mac Hollowell had the other goals for the Greyhounds.
Goaltender Matthew Villalta made 35 saves.
With the Attack holding a 1-0 series lead, game two is set for Saturday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
“Our guys know that we’ve got to be much better,” Dean said. “We came out flat, which is disappointing, but I suspect we’ll see a different Soo Greyhounds team on Saturday.”
In other playoff action on Thursday night, in St. Catharines, Jack Studnicka’s power play goal late in the opening period was the game-winner as the Niagara IceDogs blanked the North Bay Battalion 2-0. North Bay goaltender Christian Propp made 50 saves. Stephen Dhillon made 23 saves for the shutout for Niagara. The win gives Niagara a 1-0 series lead.
In Saginaw, Owen Tippett had two goals and an assist as the Saginaw Spirit took a 1-0 series lead thanks to a 6-3 win over the Sarnia Sting. Bode Wilde and Cole Perfetti had a goal and an assist each for Saginaw. Franco Sproviero assisted on all three Sarnia goals.
On Wednesday, the OHL announced the results of its annual Coaches Poll.
Frost finished first in voting for best playmaker, best stickhandler best shootout shooter, and second in voting for smartest player
Hollowell finished first in voting for best offensive defenceman and second in voting for best skater.
Barrett Hayton finished second in voting for best on faceoffs
Jordan Sambrook finished first in voting for best defensive defenceman.
Villalta finished first in voting as the best puck-handling goalie and second in voting as best shootout goalie.