Hounds seek reversal of fortunes


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

Daytime, nighttime, overtime, anytime.

Whenever and wherever, the Soo Greyhounds just want to start scoring more – especially with games on the line.

On too many nights this season, the Hounds have had a strained relationship with the opponent’s net.

A young roster is averaging just 2.67 goals per game, last in the 20-team, Ontario Hockey League.

And while they’ve played the majority of their opponents tough, an offensive shortfall has resulted in a lack of success in games going beyond regulation.

Heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. start of a three-game road trip in Erie, the Soo has opened the season with four straight overtime losses and four straight shootout losses. The Hounds are 5-8-4-4 overall and carry a six-game losing streak into the Pennsylvania city.

“The good part is we’re playing good quality games against upper-end competition,” said head coach John Dean, whose club outshot London 42-19 on Sunday, despite dropping a 4-3, shootout decision.

Two days earlier, the Greyhounds outshot Kingston 48-15, but lost 5-4 in a shootout.

“Big picture, when the kids look at the games, we’re happy with our quality of play for the most part,” said Dean, whose club is also slated to visit Mississauga on Friday (7 p.m.) and Hamilton on Sunday (2 p.m.). “We’re not in situations where the play is being taken to us on a consistent basis.”

However, as the coach agreed, losing tight, one-goal decisions can be tough on a team’s psyche.

Yet the Greyhounds players have impressed their bench boss with the way in which they’ve stayed the course.

“We had an incredible practice (on Tuesday),” Dean told Independent Media in a Wednesday interview. “They continue to come to the rink with a lot of determination and a lot of pride.”

“The locker room is the last thing you’ll have to question with the group that we have,” said overage centre Mark Duarte, who’s proven to be a major find for the club since coming over from Hamilton on a waiver claim in late September. “Even with us being a young group and with things not going our way early in the season, everyone has done a good job of sticking together, and, as Deaner would say, ‘Hammering the nail.’ We’re staying positive and not being hard on each other.”

But none of that has come easily, noted second-year forward Jordan D’Intino.

But the last two games, in particular, have made it easier to maintain a confident outlook.

“The thing that’s helping us stay positive is how we’re playing. We’re losing games we know we deserve to win,” D’Intino said. “We have a good group of guys and there’s definitely no quit in this group.”

As he spoke of the pride he has over the way in which his charges carry themselves, Dean noted how he believes the Hounds are due.

“I think it’s just a matter of time for things to turn for these guys and they get rewarded for their hard work and effort,” the coach said.

As for trying to boost the club’s offensive output, Dean talked about making small systematic tweaks.

But he’s also being careful about “overhauling the entire agenda you believe in.”

Being better in the defensive zone, with better exits and entries all go into the process of gaining more offensive production, said D’Intino.

“And we have to bear down more on our chances,” he added.

Erie (9-7-0-2) enters Thursday’s clash fresh from a 6-4 victory over Ottawa (18-2-0-0) on Monday. For the 67s, that snapped a nine-game winning streak.

Rookie forward Connor Clattenburg is eligible to play Thursday after completing a three-game, league-imposed suspension. Clattenburg received a match penalty for cross-checking late in a Nov. 13 game in London.

Meantime, defenceman Luc Brzustowski has practiced with the Hounds and is “doing great,” said Dean, who described the player’s status as day-to-day.

Brzustowski suffered an upper-body injury in a Nov. 30 game in Ottawa and hasn’t played since.

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