Schenkel shines, but Hounds eliminated


by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Natalie Shaver (OHLImages)

On a Saturday night when the goaltenders took centre stage and both teams came determined to play, the Soo Greyhounds 2022-2023 playoff hopes came to an end.

Both Charlie Schenkel of the Hounds and Tristan Lennox of the Saginaw Spirit were outstanding in the Spirit’s hard-fought, 3-1 victory in front of 5,565 at the Dow Event Center.

With just five regular season games remaining, the loss dropped the Soo to 18-30-9-6 and clinched a Western Conference playoff spot for the Owen Sound Attack.

Owen Sound improved to 30-26-4-1 – 14 points ahead of the Hounds – after defeating Oshawa 7-4. However, the Attack had already clinched before that game went final.

“It’s definitely tough,” Hounds centre Owen Allard said of his team’s elimination. “This group is so close, we all love each other. So it’s definitely hard knowing we’re not going to be able to compete for our lives in the playoffs.”

“It’s a really-tough pill to swallow,” added head coach John Dean, whose club was very much in Saturday’s game until Sault native Calem Mangone notched an empty-netter, his second goal of the contest and 14th of the season, with 20.7 seconds left in regulation. “We all start the season the same way, with hopes of entering the playoffs and competing for a championship. This year, we won’t have that opportunity.”

However, with a road game in Sudbury set for Wednesday and four home contests remaining, Dean spoke of how little changes for his club.

“There are lots of reasons to keep playing and lots of reasons to be motivated,” he continued. “We’ll put our work boots back on and get ready for our next game as we always do.”

Dean also talked about the lessons the Hounds must learn and the need for this club to be good on a consistent basis.

Schenkel finished up stopping 35 of 37 shots sent his way, while Lennox turned back all but one of the Hounds 28 shots.

“Schenks is unbelievable,” said Allard, who scored his team’s lone goal. “He’s one of the best, if not the best goalie in the league. He definitely deserves a chance to get drafted.”

Dean used the word “fantastic” to describe his netminder’s performance, on a night when the Hounds surrendered numerous Grade A scoring chances.

Schenkel’s effort comes 24 hours after Samuel Ivanov shone in Friday’s 6-3 loss in Sarnia.

The coach talked about how both goalies gave the team a chance to win.

What cost the visitors on Saturday was an inability to convert on their own scoring opportunities. The Hounds had five breakaways and Lennox turned them back each time.

Jordan D’Intino was thwarted twice by Lennox in a period of six minutes in the opening period. Captain Bryce McConnell-Barker was turned back on a clear-cut break just 1:01 into the second period.

For his part, Schenkel made a great save on Luke McNamara in tight late in the first, before frustrating Hunter Haight with back-to-back slick stops midway through the second frame. The Soo goalie also robbed Joey Willis with a pad save at the side of the goal late in the period.

Moments later, Lennox turned back Mark Duarte, who was making a strong bid for a short-handed tally.

Just 4:11 into the opening period, Mangone opened the scoring following a Greyhounds turnover in the neutral zone. Haight found a wide-open Mangone in front of the net and he beat Schenkel high on the blocker side.

Early in the second, Dean Loukus gobbled up a puck that Brenden Sirizzotti was unable to control, before rifling home a shot high glove side.

Midway through the second, Connor Clattenburg made a great feed to Allard while falling to the ice. The second-year player, who’s missed most of the season due to injury, slipped a backhander through the legs of Lennox to make it 2-1.

Haight impressed throughout and finished with three assists as the Spirit improved to 34-24-2-2. Willis contributed a pair of helpers.

Despite losing in Saginaw, Dean said he was pleased with how his players competed. He noted how hard both teams worked and how many scoring chances were generated.

“So proud of our kids. Really, really proud,” Dean said. “Guys stuck to it and gave us a chance. You put in efforts like that all season long and you’ll wind up on the right end.”

“I thought we played a really-good game,” added Allard, who notched his second goal, to go along with three assists, in nine games. “If we play like that, nine times out of 10 we’ll win the game.”

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