SAULT STE. MARIE - The ability of a slow start can be a killer in junior hockey.
For the Soo Greyhounds, it wound up being the difference on Friday night as the Guelph Storm took an early lead en route to a 5-1 Ontario Hockey League victory at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Storm led just 2-1 through 20 minutes but outshot the home team 19-5 in the frame.
“We got outworked, in the first ten minutes especially,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “ON the second shift, we gave up three Grade-A chances in the first 30 seconds of that shift that (Nick Malik) made huge saves on. We could have been down two or three in that first ten minutes.”
“That’s a disappointing effort,” Dean added.
For the Storm, the start was as good as the team could have asked for.
“That’s what we talked about was winning the first ten minutes,” said Guelph associate coach Chad Wiseman, who handle the coaching duties in the absence of general manager/coach George Burnett.
“We took the play to them early and got pucks behind their defencemen,” Wiseman added. “We controlled the offensive zone. We had buy-in from all of our players.”
In addition to getting pucks in behind the Greyhounds defencemen, Wiseman added that puck management was also strong in the opening period for the Storm.
“We were good down low, we controlled pucks and managed pucks well in the offensive zone,” Wiseman said. “We did a great job of getting to the hard areas.”
Andrei Bakanov had two goals and an assist to pace the Storm offensively. Fedor Gordeev, Matthew Papais, and Cedric Ralph also scored for Guelph while Pavel Gogolev assisted on a pair of goals.
Goaltender Nico Daws made 23 saves,
After a stretch that the Greyhounds felt good about, including winning two of three on the road last weekend, Friday’s game was a tough pill to swallow.
“I’m disappointed in the effort for sure,” Dean said.
“After four or five really good hockey games for our club and today, we lost in every department of the game,” Dean also said.
The play of goaltender Nick Malik was a positive for the Greyhounds, specifically in the opening period when he was tasked with facing 19 shots.
Malik finished the night with 30 saves.
“Nick was really good,” Dean said. “In that first period, it was one of the best goaltending displays I’ve seen in a long time.”
Robert Calisti had the lone goal for the Greyhounds in the loss.
“The ball’s in their court,” Dean said. “They know what happened out there tonight. I’ll definitely talk to them, but they’ll hopefully respond with a good game against Niagara.”
The Greyhounds face a short turnaround as the team is right back in action on Saturday night at home against the Niagara IceDogs in a 7:07 p.m. start at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
For Dean, the message heading into the game is that “they’ll show everybody – the coaching staff, each other, the guy beside them especially – what that game means to them and that they still believe that we’re still in the hunt for a spot here.”
The loss drops the Greyhounds record to 23-26-2-0.
In a fight for the final playoff spot in the conference, the Greyhounds fell four points back of the Erie Otters for eighth after the Otters picked up a point in an overtime loss against the Flint Firebirds Friday night.
The Storm, who have struggled of late and had lost eight of 10 entering the game, improve to 25-19-1-4
Much like the Greyhounds, the Storm continue to battle for playoff positioning in the OHL’s Western Conference and the win moves the team one point ahead of the Owen Sound Attack for sixth in the conference.
The Storm return to action on Saturday night in Saginaw against the Spirit.
In other action around the OHL on Friday night, in Erie, Connor Roberts scored 28 seconds into overtime to give the Flint Firebirds a 5-4 win over the Erie Otters. Vladislav Kolyachonok had a goal and two assists for Flint.
In Hamilton, Noel Hoefenmayer scored 1:32 into overtime as the Ottawa 67’s beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-4. Hoefenmayer and Jack Quinn scored twice each. Hoefenmayer scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation time. Austen Keating added a goal and two assists.
In Kingston, Zayde Wisdom’s goal in the opening minute of the third period on the power play was the eventual game-winner as the Kingston Frontenacs beat the North Bay Battalion 4-3.
In Sarnia, Curtis Douglas scored at 1:11 of overtime as the Windsor Spitfires beat the Sarnia Sting 5-4. Tyler Angle had a goal and three assists while Connor Corcoran scored twice for Windsor.
In Kitchener, Declan McDonnell scored three times as the Kitchener Rangers beat the Mississauga Steelheads 7-1. Jacob Ingham made 39 shots for the Rangers.
In London, Matvey Guskov scored twice as the London Knights beat the Saginaw Spirit 7-3. Dalton Duhart scored twice for the Spirit.
In Oshawa, Jordan Kooy made 39 saves as the Oshawa Generals beat the Sudbury Wolves 5-2.