by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Bob Davies
His office is a 200-foot runway of ice.
And Rory Kerins has never been more in control of his work space.
Whether it’s scoring goals, setting them up, winning face-offs or stifling the opposition, the Soo Greyhounds veteran centre is doing a little bit – make that a lot – of everything this season.
Well, maybe not everything.
“I still think I have more to give and a lot more to prove,” said Kerins, whose club is slated to begin a three-game road trip on Thursday (7 p.m.) in Erie.
Hounds head coach John Dean agreed, after starting his comments by calling the 19-year-old (2002 birth year) a “great hockey player and obviously our leader.”
Dean explained how the consistency Kerins has shown this season “has been fantastic,” while adding: “I think he’s got more.”
While reluctant to talk about his statistics, stepping up his game will be among the goals for the five-foot-11, 186-pounder the rest of the 2021-2022 campaign.
“I think I’m just getting started,” said Kerins, who’s produced 10 goals and 18 assists heading into the clash with the Otters.
While helping the Hounds to an 11-7-0-0 record, his 28 points are sixth in the Ontario Hockey League scoring race heading into Wednesday’s action.
“I think I can have a huge year and do better than I’m doing right now,” added the Caledon, Ont., native, who was taken by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round (No. 174 overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. “But the most important thing is to win games.”
An increased confidence level is among the factors for his strong play, admitted Kerins, who is tied for the Soo’s team lead with three, game-winning goals and has been a horse in the face-off circle.
He’s taken nearly half of the Greyhounds’ draws this season, winning 242 of 426 face-offs, an impressive 56.8 per cent.
“You play in the league for a couple of years and you understand how the game is played,” Kerins added, “and what you have to do to be successful.”
He recalled how his father, Scott, helped him work on winning draws as a youngster.
It’s typically been an area of strength for him, but this season Kerins says he’s placed addition focus on his work in the circle, adding he takes great pride in his ability there.
On Sunday, Kerins scored once and set up two others in the Greyhounds 5-4 home-ice win over the Otters. He also made a key shot block late in the game with Erie pressing for the equalizer.
After the game, the Hounds centre was making his way around the dressing room with an ice bag taped to his right calf, site of some bruising and swelling.
“It’s alright, it’ll be good to go,” Kerins said this week as he looked ahead to the Hounds trip.
While admitting it’s always in the back of his mind, signing a contract with the Flames isn’t something Kerins says he’s thinking about.
“To be completely honest, I’m not too worried about it,” he offered. “I’m just trying to play my best and hopefully that gives the team a chance to win.”
The Hounds were often dominant in Sunday’s win over Erie. The Otters were bailed out by the strong play of netminder Nolan Lalonde.
Dean spoke of the importance of the Greyhounds “not going out of our way to create (offensive chances) that aren’t there. Let the chances come to you. We feel if we play the right way, chances will come and we’ll capitalize.”
Forcing things , trying to make something out of nothing “gives the other team opportunities to come back and score on us,” the coach added.
Otters’ bench boss B.J. Adams gave the Hounds credit, calling them a good hockey team.
“They use their skill, they’re up in the rush, it’s a five-man attack,” he added, while also praising his club for getting better as Sunday’s game went along. “We can take the third period and build off of it and move forward into Thursday’s game.”
Erie, bolstered by the return of overage captain Daniel D’Amato, takes a 4-11-1-0 mark into Thursday’s clash. D’Amato began the season with the Otters, but most recently he’d been skating with the American Hockey League’s Henderson Silver Knights.
On Friday, the Soo is slated to visit Kitchener (7:30 p.m.) before wrapping up its trip on Sunday in Sarnia (2:07 p.m.). The Otters are 1-4-0-0 at Erie Insurance Arena, while the Greyhounds are 4-4-0-0 on the road this season.
Heading into Wednesday’s action, Hounds winger Tye Kartye (15-10-25) remains the OHL leader with 12 power-play goals. Centre Tanner Dickinson (7-17-24) is tied for the league lead in power-play assists with 12. The Perrysburg, Ohio, native has registered at least one point in seven consecutive games and has produced points in 17 of 18 starts. Winger Cole MacKay (8-14-22) is also among the league’s top point producers.
Rob Calisti leads all OHL defencemen with six goals.