The Greyhounds Can’t Lose
Two years ago, the Soo Greyhounds were a favourite to win it all in the OHL. They rocked their way through the regular season, leading the league in wins and points. They were hot going into the playoffs, but Connor McDavid and the Otters ended their year in the Western Conference finals.
When you are built to win, you usually have to take a couple of steps back before you can take a run at the top again. The Greyhounds only backed up a bit last season, upsetting Sarnia in the first round before falling to the Otters again. Their young players who saw what it was like to be on a great team as rookies began to understand what it took to be veterans and this season, that is showing through.
In more years than not, Sault Ste. Marie finds a way to get off to a hot start. Their travel demands allow lots of time for team bonding. That happened off the start of the 2016-17 season, but they have hit a whole new level as they near the end of the first half, winning nine consecutive games.
The ‘Hounds play with speed and a very active defence and they create matchup nightmares for opponents who come in thinking they can control the pace and style of the game.
Greyhounds’ Head Coach Drew Bannister, told Peter Ruicci of the Sault Star that Hayden Verbeek has been the team’s, “most consistent forward.” He is one of those players in his third full season who is leading by example and leading Sault Ste. Marie on their current winning streak.
Neither Can The Knights (In Regulation)
If not for the work of Michael McNiven and the Owen Sound Attack, the London Knights and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds would have dueling winning streaks going. London has not lost in regulation since November 6th. The only blemishes on their record are courtesy of the team that gave them the toughest trouble in the playoffs last spring. The Attack have edged the Knights twice in shootouts, one in London and one in Owen Sound.
At the end of last week, the Knights led the OHL in goals for. Right now, they lead the league in goals against.
London and Erie continue to leapfrog each other for first place overall. The Otters currently own the top of the mountain by one point over the Knights. London has played two fewer games this season, but will go through three games in three days starting Friday at home to Mississauga.
Steelheads Snag A Win
There are times when the fish aren’t biting. For the Steelheads in Mississauga, it was a run that started after November 6th. They went 28 days without a victory, until they reeled one in on Sunday, doubling up Ottawa 6-3.
Mississaauga came close twice, losing in overtime and in a shootout in those nine winless games. More often than not, team defence let them down. The Steelheads gave up five goals or more, seven times.
One win has stopped the streak, the question is, just how good is the team who came into the year with one of the best rosters in the Eastern Conference on paper?
Two big tests await them this weekend as they face the Kitchener Rangers and the London Knights in back-to-back games.
A Rocky Day – In A Good Way
A former Steelhead is making his mark and living up to some of his promise. Mississauga dealt Sean Day to Windsor on October 19th with draft picks, for draft picks. Day was averaging a point per game for the Steelheads at the time.
In Windsor, Day quickly made the video circuit after he scored on his own net in a game against Flint and his points per game fell, but his overall game is improving and it likely has a lot to do with Rocky Thompson. Thompson is an incredibly bright, young coaching mind in the Ontario Hockey League and it will be interesting to watch what he can do with a player like Day, who entered the league as an underage player at 15 years old and has battled criticism and a tumble down the draft board last June. The Rochester, Michigan native was selected in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers.
Day recorded his first OHL hat trick on Sunday, getting all three goals, including the overtime winner for Windsor in 3-2 victory against Saginaw in what was the final major junior game ever played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Not a bad story for a guy who grew up on the outskirts of the city.