If the Soo Greyhounds were asked to submit an example of their very-best work, Thursday’s performance against the Niagara IceDogs would certainly be up for consideration.
The Hounds were thoroughly dominant, beating the IceDogs 5-1 before 4,285 at Meridian Centre.
“One of our most complete games of the year,” said Hounds defenceman Rob Calisti, who scored twice on the power play giving him nine goals on the season.
“That was one of our more consistent 60-minute efforts,” added head coach John Dean, whose club outshot the home side by a whopping 42-16 margin, posting a season highs in shots taken and a season-low in shots allowed. “That’s where we need to be. I’m very happy with the performance.”
Jaromir Pytlik, who joined Calisti as a Greyhound standout, came away impressed with the way in which the visitors handled themselves.
“I think it was one of the best games we’ve played this year,” said Pytlik, whose hard work resulted in a goal and two assists. “We played with a swagger. Everyone listened to the pre-scout (pregame scouting report) before the game. Everyone was on the same page.”
Dean, whose club takes an 11-15-2-0 record into Friday’s scheduled 7 p.m. start in Erie, talked about how much he liked his team’s start – and the way his players built on it.
“That’s a tired team over there,” the coach said of the IceDogs, who dropped a 6-5 overtime decision in Owen Sound on Wednesday. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but that was a pretty solid game for us.”
The Hounds shone from the opening face-off, taking the lead for good when Calisti beat IceDogs goalie Tucker Tynan at the 8:24 mark.
Calisti took a backdoor feed from Pytlik to make it 1-0.
Six minutes later, Cole MacKay gobbled up his own rebound to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
The goal for the Sault native was his team-leading 14th.
However, despite the fact they totally controlled play, the Soo would skate into the first intermission with just a 2-1 lead.
With a 5-on-3 for the Hounds having ended, Niagara’s Oliver Castleman came out of the penalty box and went in on a breakaway.
The overage winger opened up Bailey Brkin and slipped the puck through the five hole for a short-handed goal at 18:41. That cut the Soo’s lead in half.
However, the Hounds weren’t flustered in the least.
They came out hard in the second period, opening a 3-1 lead on Pytlik’s goal just 3:45 into the frame.
Zack Trott took a shot and Pytlik pushed it under Tynan.
“We’ve talked about being mature hockey players,” Dean said of the way in which his team didn’t let the IceDogs short-handed marker get to them. “The guys kept rolling tonight (Thursday). We showed a lot of maturity as a group with our approach.”
In the final frame, Hounds captain Ryan O’Rourke, who had been sidelined since suffering an upper body injury on Nov. 9 in Flint, made it 4-1.
As a trailer on a rush, O’Rourke ripped one home high to Tynan’s blocker side at the 10:42 mark.
Just less than seven-minutes later, Calisti capped the scoring with a wicked drive from the right face-off circle.
“This was a huge confidence-booster for us,” said the second-year defenceman, whose team caps its road trip on Sunday in Mississauga (2 p.m.). “Our first period was huge. We need starts like that every game.”
The loss for Niagara dropped the IceDogs to 11-13-1-0.
While the Hounds were 2-for-9 with the man advantage, they limited their opponents to just three power-play chances, while killing them flawlessly.
Dean spoke of being pleased with his team’s discipline.
He also talked about how the penalty-killing units performance was “night and day” from what he saw on Sunday against London.
“They were aggressive and confident,” Dean noted. “I thought we were a little passive against London. But I was very happy with the PK tonight.”
Notes: Holden Wale missed the game after suffering an upper-body injury on Sunday against the Knights.
On Thursday, the OHL handed London’s Billy Moskal a four-game suspension for his hit on the veteran defenceman.
Sault native Lucas Theriault, who had been looking forward to playing his hometown team, sat out Thursday as one of Niagara’s healthy scratches.