‘Flat’ Hounds fall to Spirit
by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by Bob Davies
Throughout the season, the Soo Greyhounds and Saginaw Spirit have surely proven they both have the ingredients.
However, in head-to-head games on home ice, neither can bake the cake.
For the seventh time in seven games, the road team prevailed on Sunday as the Spirit stopped the Hounds 3-0 in front of 3,705 at GFL Memorial Gardens.
A silent power play – the Hounds were 0-for-5 – and an inability for Soo shooters to hit the net proved troublesome. So did a slow start that saw the Spirit score on its first two shots on goal.
“We were flat,” said head coach John Dean, whose club fell to 33-15-2-1, six points back of first-place Saginaw (37-13-0-1) in the race for top spot in the West Division. “We didn’t have a ton of jump and didn’t generate a ton.”
Both the Hounds and Spirit have 17 games regular season games remaining.
Dean went on to call Sunday’s clash a “low event hockey game, which I’m sure they were perfectly happy with, after going up 2-0 early and playing their third game in three days.”
“I’d agree we were flat,” added defenceman Caeden Carlisle, whose club lost its third in four starts, while suffering a shutout for just the second time this season. “We had spurts of good play and energy, but not enough consistently.”
Winger Justin Cloutier spoke of how he and his teammates continue to search for improved net-front presence.
“I thought we got to the net at times,” Cloutier added. “But not consistently. We have to start scoring more greasy goals.”
That slow start by the Greyhounds proved a harbinger of things to come.
Sault native Calem Mangone connected on the power play just 1:32 in. Michael Misa sent the puck to the net and Mangone, who was all alone, redirected the pass past Charlie Schenkel on the stick side.
Just 3:02 later, Joey Willis outbattled Spencer Evans for the puck at the Hounds blue-line before sending it ahead to Owen Beck.
The veteran ripped a beautiful shot past Schenkel, high to the glove side for a 2-0 advantage.
“You can’t go down 2-0 the first five minutes of the game,” said Dean, whose team has won four straight in Saginaw this season, including a 5-3 comeback victory there on Jan. 31. “I didn’t hate our start, but I didn’t like how we made two big mistakes.”
The first, the coach noted, was a delay-of-game penalty Evans took just 1:26 into the opening frame. That gave the visitors, a dangerous power-play club, an early opportunity.
The second miscue, which resulted in the Beck goal, was the result of a “couple of guys who stopped tracking on the way back.”
After that, the Hounds had a number of quality chances, but either couldn’t beat Andrew Oke, who posted his first career shutout, or direct their shots on goal.
“We missed the net a lot,” said Cloutier, whose team outshot Saginaw 22-17. “We need to bear down, put the shots on net and capitalize.”
Meantime, with Schenkel on the bench for a sixth attacker, Mangone fed Josh Bloom for an empty-net marker at 16:16 of the final frame. That capped the scoring.
Asked about the power play, Dean discussed how it “needs to be a source of strength for us.”
He agreed the Hounds over-passed the puck with the man advantage.
“We looked off script a few times,” due to the play of “a few guys,” Dean added. “In my opinion, we only really generated one opportunity on all of those power plays.”
While talking about how proud he was of his players, Spirit head coach Chris Lazary credited his club’s depth for the recent stretch, which has led to a five-game win streak.
He also liked the way in which Saginaw entered a “defensive lockdown” after getting a 2-0 lead early.
“It wasn’t about just sitting back. It was the fact we didn’t give up the lines easily, we didn’t give up the middle of the ice easily,” he said, after calling the early goals “huge.”
The Spirit bench boss also praised associate coach Jake Grimes for the job he’s done with the team’s PK units.
Carlisle talked about how “losing sucks in general,” while admitting Sunday’s loss to Saginaw “hurts a little more coming against a team you’re chasing.”
“But it’s not the end of the world,” added Cloutier, whose club entertains Sudbury here on Wednesday (7:07 p.m.), before hitting the road for games in London (7 p.m.) on Friday, Windsor (4:05 p.m.) on Sunday and Sarnia (2:05 p.m.) on Monday. “We have a lot of hockey left to play this season.”
Dean talked about how this latest stretch, with three losses over a four-game span, offers an opportunity to gain perspective.
“This is our first real taste of adversity,” he said. “We’re going to use it to learn.”
Asked about the status of Marco Mignosa and Jordan D’Intino, both of whom missed the weekend games with upper-body injuries, Dean said the wingers remain day-to-day.
“Although I’m hoping for both on Wednesday,” the coach added.
The Hounds and Spirit have one more head-to-head game on the regular season schedule. They’ll meet on March 24, the final day of the regular season, at GFL Memorial Gardens.