Story by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media)
Less than 48 hours after one of their best all-around recent performances, the Soo Greyhounds offered up one of their worst.
On a Sunday marred by miscues, shaky netminding and what appeared to be a lack of energy, the Hounds dropped a 10-6 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs in front of 2,759 at FirstOntario Centre.
“There was nothing good about that game,” lamented head coach John Dean, whose disappointment on Sunday was in direct contrast to the pride he displayed following the Soo’s 4-0 victory in Mississauga on Friday night. “We had 60 pretty-tough minutes. Right from the drop of the puck we were not a good hockey club.”
Friday’s win in Mississauga featured a high compete level, strong netminding by Charlie Schenkel, a two-goal effort by Bryce McConnell-Barker and a goal and two assists by defenceman Caeden Carlisle.
The welcomed victory snapped what had been a seven-game losing streak (0-4-1-2).
“Because we had a good game against Mississauga, I don’t know if we thought that we could change our style of play,” said Dean, whose team fell to 6-10-4-4 on Sunday, after completing a three-game trip which began with a 4-2 loss in Erie on Thursday. “We’re a team that has to earn every inch of the ice and today we didn’t want to compete for much of it, that’s for sure.”
“Obviously, we’re pretty angry,” added Hounds winger Tyler Savard, who scored twice, including a power-play marker, and now has four goals and five assists over his last five games. “When you score six, it should give you a good chance to win.”
Despite their early struggles, the Hounds found themselves tied 3-3 after 20 minutes on Sunday. But Hamilton controlled the middle frame, eventually taking a 6-3 lead into the third period.
“This is a league where you have to come ready to play every night,” Savard said. “I don’t think we were ready to go in the first period. We didn’t come out of the gate the way we wanted to.”
The plan for the Hounds was to start Schenkel in goal against the Bulldogs. But the 18-year-old (2004 birth year) was hit by a shot during warmups and suffered what Dean said was an upper-body injury.
“He couldn’t be cleared to play,” added the coach, who turned to veteran Samuel Ivanov, who’s enjoyed an impressive second season with the Hounds.
But on this day, the Richmond Hill, Ont., native was less than sharp, and the play in front of him left much to be desired.
With the score tied 3-3, Patrick Thomas beat Ivanov under the arm on the stick side from the right face-off circle. That gave the home side a 4-3 lead at 5:32 of the second period.
Less than five minutes later, Jorian Donovan made it 5-3, sliding one through traffic from the point. Donovan finished with three goals and an assist.
Six minutes after that, Logan Morrison, on a beautiful individual effort, skated in and beat Ivanov low to the stick side. That made it 6-3.
Though they trailed 7-3 early in the third, the Hounds managed to cut future deficits to 7-5 and 8-6.
Morrison had two goals and two assists for the winners, who were outshot 37-36. Avery Hayes scored twice, including once on the power play, while Florian Xhekaj and Noah Nelson, shorthanded into the empty net, rounded out the scoring.
Landon Hookey notched a goal and an assist in defeat, giving the Sarnia native goals in back-to-back games. McConnell-Barker scored on the power play while Justin Cloutier and Jordan D’Intino rounded out the scoring.
Kirill Kudryavtsev, Matthew Virgilio and Mark Duarte contributed two assists each for the Hounds, who are slated to play host to Saginaw on Friday (7:07 p.m.).
The Greyhounds began play Sunday as the OHL’s lowest-scoring team. When it came to offensive production, the Bulldogs were 19th out of 20.
So, the result of those two worlds colliding – 16 combined goals – was certainly unpredictable.
“Absolutely, we’re embarrassed to give up 10,” said Cloutier, a second-year winger. “It’s unacceptable. But I’m just embarrassed we lost today.”
Cloutier also said he felt badly for Duarte, a Hamilton native and member of the Bulldogs OHL championship team of a year ago.
“We were going back to his hometown and the team he played for,” Cloutier said of the overage, claimed on waivers by the Soo in late September. “He’s a guy who puts his heart and soul into the Hounds every single day. We all wanted to get a win for him.”