by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by soogreyhounds.com
Released from a tightening grip of pressure on Friday, the Soo Greyhounds earned the right to breathe deeply.
And they reveled in it.
Charlie Schenkel posted his second career shutout as the Hounds snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-4-1-2), stopping the Mississauga Steelheads 4-0 before 1,739 at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
“It feels pretty great to break a losing streak,” said Schenkel, who was solid and efficient on a night when his club was outshot 35-22. “The whole team played amazing.”
“I’m so proud of our guys,” added captain Bryce McConnell-Barker, who scored twice to help the Soo improve to 6-9-4-4, heading into Sunday’s 2 p.m. start in Hamilton. “I thought we played a complete game and deserved this win.”
Defenceman Caeden Carlisle, a standout with a goal and two assists, spoke of how losing streaks are so difficult to experience – even for players who remain positive.
That makes winning “feel sweeter. We’ve been knocking at the door for a win for a while,” he said. “To finally get it feels really good.”
As for what stood out most to him, head coach John Dean, whose club was very competitive in all seven losses – especially over five, one-goal decisions – used one word repeatedly.
“Character, character,” said Dean who, 24 hours earlier, was pointedly critical of the way in which his club blew a 2-1 lead late, eventually losing 4-2 in Erie. “Every single guy from our goaltender out showed a ton of character after a very tough loss (on Thursday).”
Dean went on to say he believes his players were disappointed in themselves and each other after surrendered three goals in the final 2:41 against the Otters.
“They wanted to prove they were willing to fight for one another. And they did that tonight,” he added. “I think they played a great game.”
Defensively, the club forced the Steelheads offence to operate from the perimeter early.
When the home team pressed in the latter half of the game, Schenkel was at his best.
“Our D corps was phenomenal and the forwards were backchecking,” said the 18-year-old (2004 birth year) Ottawa native. “The boys played a great game in front of me and made it easy for me.”
The Soo opened the scoring at 7:33 of the second period when Carlisle went to the net, took a slick feed from Tyler Savard and tapped the puck into the gaping cage for his first goal of the season.
Four minutes later, the Hounds made it 2-0 on the power play. Savard’s pass in front appeared to hit a Steelheads defender and caromed toward McConnell-Barker at the left side of the goal. The Soo captain had little trouble making it 2-0.
Winger Landon Hookey padded the lead early in the final frame.
After Jordan D’Intino won a face-off, Carlisle’s point shot hit a body in front of the Steelheads goal. Hookey gobbled it up and beat Ryerson Leenders to make it 3-0.
McConnell-Barker notched his 14th goal, and Carlisle garnered his second assist, as the Hounds added an empty-netter with 1:12 left in regulation. Savard also finished with a pair of assists as he and linemates Justin Cloutier and Mark Duarte again shone.
The energetic Cloutier drew iron twice on shots headed to the Mississauga goal.
Asked about the Hounds post-game reaction, Dean spoke of the players relaxing a little and soaking everything in.
“They realized they deserved it,” added the coach, whose club successfully killed off four Mississauga power plays.
The Steelheads entered the game with the second-best power play in the 20-team, Ontario Hockey League.
“It’s difficult to say when you lose seven, but our guys have played good hockey,” Dean said. “We deserved a better fate over our last seven games and tonight, we finally got rewarded.”