Hounds fall as curtain rises


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

Opening night jitters proved too much for the Soo Greyhounds to overcome on Friday.

The Hounds surrendered three goals in the first period – including two in a span of 26 seconds – and the North Bay Battalion held on for a 4-1 victory in front of 3,942 at GFL Memorial Gardens.

“I think nerves were a part of it. Obviously, that’s not the start we wanted,” said second-year centre Bryce McConnell-Barker, whose club finished the night 0-for-7 on the power play. “We were too nervous early to play our systems well.”

“Obviously, letting in three goals in the first isn’t very good,” added rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson, whose first career Ontario Hockey League goal gave his team some life early in the final frame. “We’ve got a lot of rookies, including myself, and nerves were a factor in the slow start.”

Head coach John Dean, whose team also entertains the Battalion on Saturday (7:07 p.m.), spoke of how his players couldn’t seem to control the puck.

“Our start was tough,” lamented Dean, whose club lost its top seven players from a season ago to graduation. “It looked like guys had no purpose in their structure. Guys were overthinking and they looked a little nervous with the puck.”

Kyle Jackson had a pair of goals for the Battalion while Matvey Petrov notched the other goal in the opening period.

After making a pad save on Ty Nelson’s shot, Hounds goalie Charlie Schenkel couldn’t get to the post in time and Jackson banged home the rebound from the side of the net for a power-play goal just 1:35 in.

Soo winger Tyler Savard was off after drawing an interference minor at the :26 mark. Dean said the penalty didn’t bother him, noting how Savard was trying to set a physical tone for the game.

Fifteen minutes later, Petrov slipped the puck to Jackson down low and the overage slid it through Schenkel’s legs for a 2-0 lead.

Before the home team could recover, Petrov’s quick release – and accurate shot – from the right face-off circle upped the lead, beating Schenkel high to the glove-hand side.

“That was the difference in the game,” said Battalion head coach Ryan Oulahen, whose team held a 38-23 edge in shots. “Our top players were able to finish on the chances they had and that allowed us to take an early lead.”

The North Bay bench boss also credited netminder Dom DiVincentiis, who played a tidy 60 minutes.

With the outcome still in doubt, the veteran goalie thwarted rookie Daylen Moses, who was alone in front late in the second period, and Marco Mignosa, who was on the doorstep with 5:15 left in regulation.

“He had an underrated, outstanding performance. We hung him out to dry,” Oulahen added. “The chances he saw were way too good.”

Gibson’s shot from just inside the blue-line eluded DiVincentiis high on the blocker side to get the Soo on the board at 5:01 of the third.

The LaSalle, Ont., native spoke of how turning on the light for the first time “felt awesome. But winning is better than scoring.”

Three minutes later, Savard drew an unsportsmanlike minor and 10-minute misconduct.

“We don’t want those and he knows that,” Dean said.

Gibson’s goal gave his team life. But with the Hounds on the power play and Schenkel on the bench for a sixth attacker, Nikita Tarasevich wrapped things up with a short-handed, empty-netter at 18:51.

The Hounds coach spoke of how Schenkel was “fantastic” after the opening period, how rookie Connor Clattenburg was “the best player on the ice for us,” how Moses “showed a great engine,” and how Gibson “was fantastic for us.”

Petrov finished with a goal and two assists while both Nelson and Justin Ertel also helped set up a pair.

As for Saturday’s clash, as he looked ahead, veteran defenceman Luc Brzustowski couldn’t help but state the obvious.

“We need a better start,” said the Kitchener, Ont., native, who missed all four exhibition games with a lower-body injury. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the first that put us behind the eight ball. But I thought we got better with each period.”

“Our returning players need to be significantly better,” Dean added. “We need guys out there  modelling the way we play with work ethic, compete and style of play. They need to settle things down.”

The Hounds are hoping their improved play after the opening frame on Friday provides some momentum heading into Game 2.

“The good news is that we can be a lot better,” said Dean, who planned to use video to raise some spirits. “We’ll show them some of the positive things they did and how some of the panic can be taken out of their game.”

More News
VIDEO; SOO 4 @ MISS 0 - November 25, 2022
3 days ago
VIDEO; SOO 6 @ HAM 10 - November 27, 2022
3 days ago
Hounds cough up 10, lose in Hamilton
3 days ago
Hounds rebound with ‘character’ win
5 days ago
VIDEO; SOO 2 @ ER 4 - November 24, 2022
5 days ago
‘No reason for us to lose’ says Dean
6 days ago