Hounds don’t panic, gain split with Battalion


by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Bob Davies

The apprenticeship a young team faces is never easy. It’s often fraught with gut-wrenching losses.

But not this time.

“It’s better to learn your lessons after a victory than a loss,” said John Dean, minutes after his Soo Greyhounds withstood an exasperating collapse on Saturday, before gutting out a 6-4 victory over the North Bay Battalion before 3,096 at GFL Memorial Gardens.

“It’s huge for the group,” said overage winger Mark Duarte, who played brilliantly when pressed into duty at centre. “This will make us even tighter as a team.”

Justin Cloutier beat his man to the net and banged home the rebound of a Kirill Kudryavtsev shot to give the home team a 4-0 lead at 3:46 of the second period.

That gave the Hounds four goals on their first seven shots. But minutes later, the Battalion, 4-1 winners in Friday’s Ontario Hockey League season opener for both teams, finally got in gear.

Kyle Jackson, at 9:27 on the power play, and Ty Nelson, who beat a screened Charlie Schenkel at 18:19, made it 4-2.

Matvey Petrov connected on the power play with .8 seconds left in the middle frame before Liam Arnsby took advantage of a turnover to tie the game 4-4 –stunning the Hounds in the process – 3:53 into the third.

Schenkel had little chance on any of the goals as the Soo saw its lead melt away.

“But there was no panic. We stayed together as a group,” said winger Tyler Savard, who went on to score the winning goal less than nine minutes later. “Last year, we would get down because we had such high expectations.”

However, with a younger, inexperienced roster, Savard explained how the Hounds are well aware of the pitfalls that could befall them this season.

“Personally, it never felt like we’d lost momentum to them,” he added. “I never felt as if we were out of it.”

“A lot of teams would have folded the tent right there, especially an inexperienced team,” said Dean.

After Dom DiVincentiis stopped a Kalvyn Watson shot, Savard gobbled up the rebound at the side of the net and deposited the puck past the veteran goalie.

That made it 5-4 at 12:31. Four minutes later, Watson notched a power-play marker to seal it, scoring off a scramble in front.

“Obviously, I’m not happy blowing a four-goal lead,” said Dean, whose club is set to entertain Flint on Wednesday (7:07 p.m.). “But I give a lot of credit to our guys. I’m very, very impressed. We competed very hard tonight (Saturday).”

“The older guys stepped up and the younger guys proved they belong in the league,” said Duarte, who notched a goal and an assist after being claimed on waivers from Hamilton earlier in the week. “They stayed composed.”

Andrew Gibson had a power-play goal and two assists while Savard, Watson and Kudryavtsev also finished with a goal and an assist.

The Soo was 2-for-3 with the man advantage, one night after going 0-for-7.

“We proved we have a lot of guts,” said Watson. “We also proved that despite the fact we’re young, we have a high compete level. That’s what got it done for us.”

Duarte, who said he hadn’t played centre in the OHL before coming to the Hounds, won 17 of the 29 draws he took. That rivalled Bryce McConnell-Barker, who won 18 of 30.

Assistant coach Brent Hughes “taught me how to improve my faceoffs. Give him the credit,” said Duarte, who spoke of how his new teammates have quickly made him feel welcome.

Dean credited his returning players for their strong efforts on Saturday, while noting how Schenkel was “unbelievable. He didn’t deserve to have that four-spot on him but he gave us a chance to win.”

“We just didn’t like our game, from the start and all the way through,” said Battalion head coach Ryan Oulahen, whose club held a 38-27 edge in shots. “We didn’t deserve to be in that hockey game.”

Oulahen started Charlie Robertson in goal, but the rookie was shaky early and was pulled after the third Soo goal.

The coach agreed a couple of soft goals early could have given the Hounds life. He also spoke of how the Battalion may have taken the less-experienced Hounds a little lightly.

Nelson finished the game with a goal and two assists in defeat.

The Hounds played minus overage defenceman Ryan Thompson, who was injured blocking a shot in the second period on Friday. Dean said Thompson might have a broken bone in his foot.

However, the coach said he expects the rearguard back sooner rather than later.

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