Hounds expect much more moving forward


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

For the first time since the spring of 2012 – with the exception of 2020 when COVID-19 ended the season prematurely – the Soo Greyhounds will not be a part of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

Sunday, following a season-ending 5-2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves before 4,009 at GFL Memorial Gardens, the Hounds spoke of how such a scenario is not acceptable.

“It can’t happen again. We want to get back to being a major contender and I think we’re going to,” said head coach John Dean, whose club finished the season with a 20-33-9-6 mark, 18th overall in the 20-team loop. “I smell opportunity and I think the guys do, too. As individuals, we all have to take ownership and make sure we’re part of the solution We have to come back with a championship mindset.”

“Obviously, we don’t want a season like this again,” added captain Bryce McConnell-Barker, whose 30-47-77 stat line made him the Soo’s leading scorer for 2022-2023. “It’s tough emotionally. I’m not used to being on a losing team and this will provide motivation.”

McConnell-Barker also spoke of how he has no doubt the Soo will be a better team next season.

By finishing 18th, the Greyhounds will have a 20 per-cent chance of gaining the No. 1 pick overall in the Apr. 21-22 Priority Selections draft.

Draft order will be determined in Wednesday’s draft lottery, which can be viewed on CHL TV ( beginning at 6 p.m. The 20th-place Niagara IceDogs have a 40 per-cent chance of being awarded the first pick overall, while the 19th-place Erie Otters have a 30 per-cent opportunity.

The Kingston Frontenacs, the other team not a part of the postseason, will have a 10 per-cent shot at picking first. Before their Sunday night game against Oshawa, the Fronts cliched 17th overall by virtue of the Greyhounds loss to Sudbury.

As for Sunday’s finale, a lack of discipline was certainly a factor as the Soo’s two-game win streak was halted.

“We needed to stay out of the box,” said Dean, whose club surrendered three power-play goals and skated shorthanded on 10  separate occasions. “But I’m not going to harp on my guys too much today. Those are usually lessons you talk about as you look ahead to setting the tone for the next game.”

With his club trailing 4-2 and play in the offensive zone, rookie winger Connor Clattenburg was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind at 13:55 of the second period. It led to a fight with Dylan Robinson, with the Sudbury player fingered as the aggressor.

Though the Hounds rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game on a slick individual effort by Kirill Kudryavtsev at 9:37 of the second period, the Wolves regained momentum just 19 seconds later.

Quentin Musty skated in on the left-wing, and used a toe drag to change the shooting angle before beating Samuel Ivanov low to the glove-hand side.

It was a goal Ivanov would surely love to have back. That gave the visitors a 3-2 lead and Dean agreed it was likely the turning point.

“That was really tough for us. That burst our bubble a little bit,” the coach added. “That third goal was a tough one, for sure.”

Sudbury added a power-play marker just over two minutes later. Both Nicholas Yearwood and Evan Konyen were left all alone in front and David Goyette found Yearwood. The former London Knight converted to give the Wolves a two-goal advantage.

Sudbury made it 5-2 when Musty notched his second goal midway through the third, beating Ivanov five-hole.

Despite the Hounds struggles, Dean spoke of how “absolutely proud,” he was of his team, calling the players a “resilient group. There’s a lot of promise for the future.”

“Very proud of the guys,” added McConnell-Barker. “We worked really hard in practice and competed in games. The season just didn’t go our way.”

Musty finished with two goals and an assist while Yearwood scored once and set up another. Nathan Villeneuve and Landon McCallum, both on the power play, had the other Wolves goals. David Goyette had three assists while both Kocha Delic and Matthew Mania helped set up two goals.

Kalvyn Watson, with his team-leading 35th, had the other Soo goal, beating Kevyn Brassard on the power play at 7:31 of the second period.

Watson and fellow overages Ryan Thompson and Mark Duarte skated in their final OHL games, with Dean making sure the trio were on the ice as the seconds ticked down at the end.

“I obviously want to thank everyone in the organization,” said Watson, who was a member of the Hounds for four seasons. “I’m emotional, I’m sad. But it’s been a great ride and I’m happy to be able to end it with these guys.”

Asked to sum up the season, Dean used the word “rollercoaster,” noting how the Hounds “showed spurts and flashes of brilliance,” but “unfortunately for every step forward we took a pause and took a step back.”

As if going through a rebuilding season wasn’t difficult enough, injuries played a significant role in the Greyhounds struggles. No. 1 netminder Charlie Schenkel missed more than two months, promising defenceman Andrew Gibson was sidelined a full two months, second-year centre/winger Owen Allard missed all but 14 games and second-year defenceman Connor Toms was on the shelf for 22 games.

While he had strayed away from excuses throughout the season, on Sunday Dean did admit “coupling injuries with our youth made them a bigger factor.”

However, while speaking about the last month, the coach lauded his club for playing a “more consistent brand of hockey.”

With the victory, the Wolves (31-28-6-3) clinched fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll open the playoffs this week against fourth-seeded Peterborough.

“You just want to take care of business and that was the message today,” said Wolves head coach Derek MacKenzie, whose club was outshot 30-24. “We knew the Sault would come out and play hard, but it was about taking care of business.”

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