SAULT STE. MARIE, ONT. - The offensive side of the game has seemingly come easy for the Soo Greyhounds of late.
After scoring eight times in a win over the Saginaw Spirit at home on Wednesday night, the Greyhounds scored nine more on Friday in the opening game of a two-game weekend set against the Guelph Storm at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Greyhounds picked up a 9-4 Ontario Hockey League win over the Storm Friday, to improve to 9-4-0-0 on the young season.
“Offensively we were very strong obviously,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “I’m very happy that we were able to generate some speed both on our exits and through the neutral zone. That was important for us. We didn’t want to let them slow us down”
Friday’s win came after the Storm upended the Greyhounds last weekend at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.
That game was one in which the Greyhounds saw a team play a style that they had not seen much of to that point in the season.
“We haven’t seen a team that can slow us down like that and we had to work through that,” Greyhounds forward Rory Kerins said. “After watching video, we made some adjustments and they worked out.”
Storm general manager and coach George Burnett said following the game that Guelph “got schooled in every aspect of the game.”
“I got out-coached, and we got out-played,” Burnett added. “Our inexperience showed tonight when you have a pretty solid effort like we did not too long ago against this club, and we probably made some assumptions, and they were clearly wrong.”
Burnett said the most important thing coming out of the game is “we have a chance to be better tomorrow and respond with a better effort.”
“We’re going to have to park it,” Burnett also said. “That’s learning how to put it behind us, but also learn from all the things that took place in the game tonight. I made it clear to our guys that we scored four goals, but there better not be anyone leaving here happy tonight or satisfied that there was any good because there wasn’t.
Burnett said the Greyhounds holding onto the puck and playing with pace was the biggest difference from last Saturday’s meeting between the two teams in Guelph.
Burnett added that he felt the Storm were fortunate to get through the opening period tied at one.
Kerins spoke of the Greyhounds controlling the play in the latter stages of the opening period after settling into the contest.
“The first period, it took us a little bit, but once we got a couple shifts in, we controlled play and we controlled play all the way until there was 10 minutes left in the third,” said Kerins, who finished the night with two goals and two assists.
“We did a good job of skating through their high guy,” Kerins said. “They always have three guys back and we did a good job of skating through their third guy to get to their two defencemen.”
Guelph opened the scoring as Sasha Pastujov beat Greyhounds starter Samuel Ivanov 5-hole in close after a defensive zone turnover by the Sault.
Just over three minutes later, Tyler Savard tied the game for the Greyhounds as he poked in a loose puck after Owen Bennett made the initial stop on Sault defenceman Jacob Holmes on the play.
Kerins gave the Greyhounds a 2-1 lead 2:41 into the second period when he picked up the puck in his own zone and went end-to-end before beating Bennett.
Just 1:57 later, Ryan O’Rourke extended the Sault lead, beating Bennett from the slot on power play.
Bryce McConnell-Barker made it 4-1 Greyhounds midway through the second period after Guelph turned the puck over twice on the shift, the second being in the defensive zone. McConnell-Barker found himself in the right circle where he beat Bennett from.
In the third, Kerins picked up his second goal of the night when he jumped on a rebound to the right of the net and beat Bennett after the Storm netminder stopped a shot by Tanner Dickinson seconds earlier.
McConnell-Barker made it 6-1 just 2:27 later when he went to the net and redirected a pass from Cole MacKay past Bennett.
The teams proceeded to trade goals the rest of the way in the game.
Tye Kartye made it 7-1 with a power play goal at 11:38.
Storm defenceman Cam Allen the scored on the power play at 15:23, beating Ivanov from the top of the right circle to make it 7-2.
Savard then extended the lead 27 seconds later.
Goals by Guelph’s Luka Profaca at 18:29 and Jordan D’Intino of the Sault at 18:54 made it 8-4 before Chase Coughlan of the Storm capped off the scoring in the final minute.
Savard finished the night with two goals and two assists and has four goals in his past two games after scoring a pair of goals on Wednesday night against Saginaw as well.
“It was a slow start for me,” Savard said, calling the first 10 games of the season “an adjustment.”
Savard has spent time on a line with former Greyhounds first rounder Bryce McConnell-Barker of late and the pair combined for four goals on Friday.
“Me and Bryce are both pass first guys and when you have two pass-first guys on a line, it opens up a lot of ice and it gives everyone on the line an opportunity,” Savard said.
Dean called McConnell-Barker the unsung hero in the game for the Greyhounds.
“That’s a guy that I can be really excited about with the way he played today,” Dean said. “He moved his feet, got involved. Right off the hop, he caused a penalty by moving his feet through the neutral zone. If that’s how Bryce is going to continue to progress, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
O’Rourke finished the night with two points for the Greyhounds (a goal and an assist) while Dickinson and Marc Boudreau assisted on a pair of goals each for the Greyhounds.
Ivanov made 30 saves for the Greyhounds and earned praise from Sault coach John Dean.
“Sammy was great in the second period,” Dean said. “I liked our second. The team we are right now, there are a lot of things we like and a lot of things we need to work on and that’s the story around the league. Fortunately, the things we like are helping us win some games early on here.”
“Sammy has really helped ease that transition for our first-year players,” Dean added. “Tonight, if not for him in that second period, the game could have gone a different way.”
Bennett finished the night with 33 saves for the Storm.
Friday’s loss drops Guelph’s record to 6-5-1-0.
The two teams return to action on Saturday night in the finale of the two-game set between the clubs. Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens is set for 7:07 p.m.