Story by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | File photo by Bob Davies
The way the Soo Greyhounds shot themselves in the foot on Thursday, they could have used bulletproof skates.
On the verge of snapping a six-game losing streak, a number of late-game mistakes resulted in the Hounds blowing a 2-1 advantage in the final 2:41. They eventually dropped a 4-2 decision to the Erie Otters before 3,374 at Erie Insurance Arena.
“There was no reason for us to lose that game and I think the guys need to wear it,” said head coach John Dean, whose club controlled much of the contest – until it mattered most. “Our decision-making in the last five minutes went out of the window. It’s an unacceptable loss.”
“This is probably the most frustrated I’ve been after a loss all year,” said winger Tyler Savard. “I think we were obviously the better team tonight (Thursday). We had the game on our fingertips and I thought we were going to get over the hump.”
That ‘hump’ is best illustrated by the club’s record in one-goal games.
Despite playing the majority of their opponents tough, the Hounds are 0-4-1-2 over seven starts heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. clash in Mississauga.
But five of those losses have been by a single goal, while the other two setbacks saw the opponent score into an empty net to register a two-goal decision.
That was the case on Thursday after the Otters scored twice in a span of 1:42 to open a 3-2 lead. They notched an empty-netter at 19:58 of the third period to drop the Soo to 5-9-4-4.
“They all hurt, this one maybe especially,” said overage centre Mark Duarte, a standout in defeat scoring both Greyhounds goals. “This isn’t a good feeling, obviously. It sucks. A game is never done until it’s done.”
No one needed to tell the Otters that.
Trailing 2-1, Elias Cohen beat his man to the front of the Soo goal before redirecting a feed from Noah Sedore past Samuel Ivanov at 17:19 of the third period. Erie took the lead at 19:01 following an Andrew Gibson turnover.
Christian Kyrou found Cohen alone in front of the net and the visitors had themselves a 3-2 lead.
With Ivanov on the bench for a sixth attacker, Brett Bressette wrapped things up with the empty-netter as Erie improved to 10-7-0-2.
“We made a horrible decision on rush coverage on their second goal,” lamented Dean, whose club is also slated to visit Hamilton at 2 p.m. on Sunday. “On the winning goal it was like we were all surprised the other team was still working hard. Quite honestly, their first three goals were all on really-bad mistakes.”
A miscue by rookie defender Matthew Virgilio led to the first Otters goal. Malcolm Spence scored on a give-and-go with Bressette at 7:29 of the opening period.
But Savard made a nifty feed to Duarte, who tapped the puck past Erie goaltender Nolan Lalonde to tie the score at 10:55 of the middle frame. Eight minutes later, Justin Cloutier’s impressive puck control in the offensive zone led to Duarte’s 10th goal of the season.
Cloutier, who finished with two assists, found the overage down low and Duarte came out from behind the goal before beating Lalonde low to the glove-hand side.
The Soo was surely impressive through 40 minutes, outshooting its opponent 20-12 while keeping most of Erie’s chances to the perimeter.
“We were dominant for 40 minutes and I didn’t mind our first 10 minutes in the third,” said Dean, whose team finished the game with a 25-23 edge in shots. “But obviously the last 10 was disheartening. The mistakes were lackadaisical, they’re unacceptable.”
“We’re a young team, it got a little hectic and guys got nervous,” Savard offered. “They weren’t making the plays they normally would make if we were up 4-0.”
Savard also talked about how he and his teammates committed way too many turnovers.
Based on the way his club has played of late, controlling some games despite coming up just short, Dean’s approach has been “mostly positive” while interacting with his charges.
“But the message won’t be positive tomorrow,” he said Thursday night. “The guys have to wear this.”
However, Duarte spoke of the importance of the Greyhounds “not getting down on each other. We have to keep the energy level high because we have two more big games this weekend that can turn the trip around.”
Ethan Montroy made his 2022-2023 debut with the Hounds. The second-year winger began the season with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League. The 17-year-old (2005 birth year) Montroy had seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 15 games with the Colts.