Soo Greyhounds dropped their Western Conference semifinal series opener with the Flint Firebirds, but the feeling is there’s a lot to build on
It wasn’t because of a lack of opportunity.
Soo Greyhounds opened the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs on Friday night by defeating the Flint Firebirds 58-31 in a 5-3 loss at the Dot Financial Center in Flint.
While they still feel they could be better, they also feel they deserve a better fate in losing the opening in the Western Conference semi-finals to the Firebirds.
“We’ve outdone them, but I don’t think it’s our best hockey game,” said veteran striker Calvin Watson. “We can achieve more speed and keep the same style of game (success will come).”
Firebirds goalkeeper Luke Cavallin was excellent on the win, stopping 55 shots.
“Their goalkeeper played great,” Dean said. “Our players gave a great boost, especially in the second half of that match. What a great response in the third period. This is a credit to our guys.”
The message for the second game, Dean added, is “we have to be better”.
“It’s a great effort and we’ve done a lot of good things, but our intensity level can be much higher,” Dean said. “We can score more in front of the grid, and we need to take advantage of our opportunities.”
The Firebirds opened the scoring in the first period with a pair of goals in Power play and Dean noted that the goals come back to intensity.
“We were playing really well and that’s a little bit about the intensity level we’re talking about,” Dean said. “We have to make sure we block shots and take those chances in a game and then they won’t find the back of our net.”
“We can’t take penalty kicks against this team,” Thompson added. “They’ve had a good power game and it’s costing us.”
However, Dean said the team’s response has been positive recently in similar situations.
“The way our team is going now, when the pucks fall into our net, there is a really good response off the bench,” Dean said. “There is great faith in our room now.”
Firebirds coach Ted Dent described strength games as important goals for the team.
“It was huge,” Dent said in an interview with Firebirds Hockey Network. “We worked on it this morning. We made some videos too this afternoon and made it a focus. We transformed it a little bit.”
Flint opened the scoring in a 5:58 power match when Ethan Keppen beat Samuel Ivanov from the edge of the right circle after a point shot from Dmitriy Kuzmin was far and veered into Keppen from the end of the boards.
25.7 seconds before the end of the period, Brennan Usman made it 2-0 with Flint’s second goal in strong play of the night. Veteran bat striker Ivanov fired a shot from the top of the left circle after an attempt to block Bryce McConnell Parker.
After a second goal-free period, Watson got the greyhounds on the plate 5:04 in the third inning when he hit a puck nearby after Thompson’s initial shot was stopped by Flint goalkeeper Luke Cavallen. Recoil deflected into Watson’s crease.
Thompson continued to tie the match at 6:24 when he grabbed a disc at the top of the right-hand circle and beat Cavalin with a gloved shot.
After just 52 seconds, Flint reclaimed the lead when Riley Percy took a 2-on-1 lead, hitting Usman with a pass and then beating Ivanov into the second leg feed to make the score 3-2 Firebirds.
Colson Peter made it 4-2 for the Firebirds at 13:50 when they beat greyhound defender Kirill Kudryavtsev in the hole before past the Ivanov puck.
Thompson made it a single-goal game with 4:14 to go in regulatory time when he beat Cavalin by a point through traffic.
Peter concluded the victory with a free goal 20 seconds ago.
Thompson and Watson finished the night with three points each for greyhounds; Thompson scored two goals and assisted another while Watson had a goal and a pair of assistants.
Ivanov stopped 26 rounds for greyhounds.
Osman Firebirds led offensively with four points in the win, scoring once and making three more goals.
He also helped Kuzmin achieve three goals for Flint.
Cavalin stopped 55 rounds.
The series resumes Sunday at 4 p.m. in Flint before moving to Sault Ste. Mary for the third and fourth games of the week.
“We’ll take the good stuff, learn from the things that cost us, and move on,” Dean said of Sunday’s game. “There are a lot of good things to take and we are excited to move forward with the formula.”