Overtime winner Brennan Usman scored as the Flint Firebirds took the lead in the chain of command over Soo Greyhounds
Confidence is something Soo Greyhounds have relied on this season and that won’t change as the team heads out on the road to facing a 3-1 series deficit against the Flint Firebirds.
Brennan Usman’s overtime goal was the difference as the Firebirds beat the Greyhounds 3-2 Thursday night in Game 4 of the Ontario Western Hockey Conference semi-final series in Ontario.
Firebirds defender Zach Terry fired a shot from the left which was blocked by the greyhound in the left circle and redirected to Usman in the circle, who scored on an empty net and greyhound goalkeeper Tucker Tainan turned away to try.
The Firebirds scored three unanswered goals in the win after falling behind in the opening period when the Greyhounds scored a pair of goals by just over three minutes.
“Tonight’s not for the lack of competition and the lack of character, that’s for sure,” said Greyhound trainer John Dean. “I don’t like the middle tire. That was a problem for us against Flint so far, but mostly, it wasn’t because there was a lack of competition. We’ll look at a few things and make some adjustments, but there’s a formula out there and we’ve had a lot of success in the first period and a fair amount of Success in period 3. If we can find a way to put 60 together, we are in good shape.”
While the mood was calm in the greyhound dressing room after the loss, striker Rory Kerns said he “won’t say (the loss) takes anything from us”.
“We played a good game. Just like every game in this series, a rebound could have passed in either case to either team,” Kerns added. We are focused on the next match. We have work to do.”
Kerens also talked about the number of scoring chances the team got in the match and some rebounds that didn’t pull off the greyhounds,
“It was a good start,” Kearns said. “We came out strong. We were just missing that other goal. We had some chances. I had a breakup. I had an empty net and hit the post at the end of the match. We bounced in the match and didn’t get our way.”
For Firebirds, there was a lot to like about the fourth game even though it was a game that would be put in the rearview mirror relatively quickly.
“This is a tough building to play in,” said Flint coach Ted Dent. “We fought a 2-0 loss and I’m proud of the guys. They touched it and it’s one game at a time and one term at a time. We will forget about this tomorrow and prepare for Saturday.”
Dent said he felt the Firebirds showed some improvement after losing 3-2 in Game Three on Tuesday.
“We played more aggressively than that last night,” Dent said. “We played faster, but there are some areas for improvement. We were a little bit in too much danger at times. There were a few turnovers we wanted to take back, but Kavvie (Goalkeeper Luke Cavallen) saved our ass a few times in the third half and in overtime” .
Greyhounds got on the board first when Jack Thompson beat Cavallen from the short side of the right circle through traffic at 5:11 in the opening period.
Tye Kartye made it 2-0 to Greyhounds 3:19 later when he beat out Cavallin by high gauntlet in the left circle with greyhounds in strong play.
Flint was pushed inside when Brayden Kreisler beat Greyhound player Tucker Tainan after taking a pass into the hole from Dimitri Kuzmin just below the net at 16:17. The goal came after Kuzmin circled over the greyhounds area and then hit a Chrysler pass before flying over the net.
Sahel Banwar tied the Firebirds 1:01 to go in the opening period when a shot from the right circle found its way despite an attempted block by Greyhounds defender Kirill Kudryavtsev and bypassed Tynan.
Kerns and Cole McKay finished the night with two passes each for greyhounds while Tainan saved 33 balls.
Osman finished the night with a goal and assist for the Firebirds.
“He was an opportunist,” Dent said of the striker, who scored high. “He finds a way to do that and is in the right places to score goals.”
Cavallin held 39 rounds.
The series moves to Flint for Game Five on Saturday night at the Dot Financial Center.
Greyhounds remain confident entering the match.
“We still think we can win the series,” Kearns said.
“(The message is) Go win a game,” Dean said. “You have 20-year-olds playing for their lives at the end of their careers, and for some 19-year-olds, it’s the same. Go win one match and do it in a desperate way.”
Dean added that he was confident the team would respond well after the disappointment of Thursday’s loss.
“I have no doubt these guys will respond well on Saturday, and we’ll take it from there,” Dean said.
If needed, Game Six is scheduled for Monday night locally at GFL Memorial Gardens.