Story by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Bob Davies
Physicality and organization.
Greyhounds head coach John Dean is looking for more of both as his club prepares to hit the road for a three-game trip.
After reviewing video of Saturday’s 6-3 home-ice loss to the Sudbury Wolves, Dean spoke on Tuesday of how he felt the Hounds, who opened the season with a 4-1 win over North Bay on Friday, “looked a little disorganized. I’d also like to see us be a little more physical.”
The Soo coach went on to explain how the game review showed “we let Sudbury break out of their zone really easily. A lot of that had to do with a lack of physical play.”
The Hounds trailed throughout on Saturday, falling behind 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, before surrendering two unanswered goals in the third period.
Dean also thought the Greyhounds didn’t get on top of pucks “nearly hard enough. We want to be a team that really uses our speed to our advantage, with and without the puck.”
While that wasn’t the case against the Wolves, the Hounds, who depart on Wednesday, will look to rebound beginning Thursday (7:30 p.m.) in Barrie. The first road trip of the season also sees the Soo visit Guelph Friday and Owen Sound on Saturday. Both are also 7:30 p.m. starts.
Three games in three days is difficult, Dean agreed, before noting how every Ontario Hockey League team goes through this test.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get on the road and do a little team bonding,” he added. “It’s a real-good opportunity to see what we have here.”
“First road trip in a while,” said centre Rory Kerins, who has been his team’s best player through two games.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out the entire 2020-2021 Ontario Hockey League season, the Soo’s last road trip took the team to Sudbury for a March 6, 2020, game with the Wolves.
“I’m pretty excited to get together with the guys and have some fun,” Kerins added. “But we’ll need to be better across the board. We need to continue to improve our game and play with more consistency.”
Kerins also talked of how “if we focus on the process, the (positive) outcomes will start coming our way.”
Asked about this week’s goaltending plans, Dean said his intention is to get Charlie Schenkel into action after fellow rookie Samuel Ivanov started both of the games on opening weekend. The coach also said he wasn’t yet sure who would start in Barrie.
As for the overage players, Dean spoke of how he hadn’t formulated a plan for the deployment of the club’s OAs, noting how “we’re not overthinking it ahead of time. We’re kind of going game by game.”
While they can only dress three, the Greyhounds continue to carry five overages: Forwards Tye Kartye, Alex Johnston, Cole MacKay and Joe Carroll, and defenceman Rob Calisti. A number of factors go into the Soo’s lineup decisions, the coach noted.
For instance, as expected, Calisti played on Saturday with fellow rearguard Ryan O’Rourke serving Game 1 of a two-game, league-imposed suspension for a check to the head in Friday’s win over North Bay. O’Rourke will also miss the Barrie game.
Meantime, rookie defenceman Connor Toms spoke of being “very excited” as he prepared for his first time on the road as an OHL player. “I’ve never done three games in three days, especially at this level. I’m sure it’ll be tough, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The 17-year-old (2004 birth year) Sault native picked up his first career point, an assist, in the North Bay game. Toms also nearly scored on Saturday. Wolves goalie Mitchell Weeks made the initial save on a shot by Toms and the Hounds third-round selection in 2020 nearly jammed home the rebound.
“I gave it a chance, but the goalie made an incredible save,” Toms said.
Asked for his impressions of the OHL after two games, Toms, who’s played a regular shift, spoke of how fast the action is.
“It’s awesome. Everyone is a real-good player,” he answered. “It’s really fun to work with my teammates and try to use my strengths.