Story by soogreyhounds.com | Photos by James Egan Photography
SAULT STE. MARIE, ON-
With the 2017 playoffs kicking off on Thursday Night, the Soo Greyhounds got off on the right foot in their Western Conference Quarter-Final series with the Flint Firebirds.
Along with scoring the opening goal of the game, the Hounds held their opponent shot less in the first five minutes to put together a lead they would never look back from.
“Certainly, it was the start we were looking for. We did a lot of good things. We created a lot of opportunities, their goalie for the most part in the first period had to make some real good saves for them to keep the game close at that time” started Hounds Head Coach Drew Bannister.
A powerplay presented itself to the Hounds in the opening minute, but while Flint killed that off they then presented a good chance to open the scoring for the visitors.
Just over three minutes in Dennis Busby was the trailer and rung a shot off the post to the right of MATTHEW VILLALTA.
Less than two minutes later BOBBY MACINTYRE was sprung on a breakaway for the Hounds but was met by the task and stop by Flint’s Connor Hicks.
Midway through the period the Hounds would open the scoring.
At 10:36, HAYDEN VERBEEK used his speed to get to the puck down low in the Flint zone and sent it back to the point where ANTHONY DEMEO’s wrist shot would be redirected home by VERBEEK for his 2nd career playoff goal and a 1-0 Greyhound lead.
Just over three minutes later (13:50) JACK KOPACKA skated in as part of a 2-on-2 situation and wristed the puck home for a 2-0 Greyhounds lead through twenty minutes.
The opening period saw Port Washington, NY defenceman ANTHYONY DEMEO pick up his 1st career playoff point while securing some further strong offensive and defensive play for the second year Hound that didn’t go unnoticed by the Hounds bench boss when asked post-game.
“Anthony has been real good, quietly efficient over the last few weeks. Probably his best hockey since he’s been with us” stated Bannister
It would take nearly ten minutes to see the first goal of the second period, but opportunities presented themselves early on.
The Hounds would start the period with 1:47 on the powerplay that quickly turned into a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:43 after Alex Peters was tagged with a delay of game minor.
Despite the two man advantage and unofficially five shots during that time, the Hounds were unable to pull any further ahead.
While still in the first ten minutes, Ryan Moore was stopped by VILLALTA on a breakway and the Hounds would reward their goalie in short order.
At the 8:25 mark, HAYDEN VERBEEK drove deep to the right of the Flint goal and whether it was a centring pass attempt or not, the Kingston ON product netted his 2nd of the night to put the Hounds ahead 3-0.
But the game would become interesting when Flint would score a pair of goals just twenty-two seconds apart in the final minute.
Mathieu Henderson’s point shot (19:11) appeared to go off a Greyhounds’ stick and overtop VILLALTA to put the visitors on the board before Alex Peters (19:33) shot got a piece of the netminders glove and quickly it was a 3-2 game through two periods.
BORIS KATCHOUK netted the insurance marker unofficially on the Hounds first shot of the third period at 7:29 completing the give-and-go with COLTON WHITE to put the home side ahead 4-2.
The second assist went to BLAKE SPEERS.
Then with under two minutes to play, KATCHOUK worked the puck down low to the left of an empty Flint net as they had their goalie pulled for the extra attacker, and made the feed out front that BLAKE SPEERS would deposit in the 5-2 final.
The Hounds outshot Flint 37-21 in the game and with the victory took a one-game-to-none advantage in the series.
“At times we played the way we wanted to. In the second at times we got away from what we wanted to. When you do that, against a group like this, they transition fast and they try and put pucks behind you especially when we’re trying to push forward. We have to be aware of that. Our line changes weren’t great in the second either, we got caught a couple times. That’s more of a focus thing” concluded Bannister.
For VILLALTA, the win marked his 1st-career playoff victory between the pipes in his inaugural playoff starts. He is expected to get the nod for Game 2 on Saturday Night.
ATTENDANCE – 3,342
RED STAR THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1- Hayden Verbeek, SSM
2- Blake Speers, SSM
3- Boris Katchouk, SSM
To view the online boxscore CLICK HERE.
Game 2 of this series goes on Saturday, March 25th (7:07 PM) here at the Essar Centre.
Great seats are available by stopping by the Box Office (10 AM to 5:30 PM Friday, 10 AM through game time on Saturday) or by ordering online at www.essarcentre.ca or by phone at 1.866.775.9422.