Greyhounds grab dramatic victory after honouring former great

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It was almost fitting the way it finished.

On a night when the organization was honouring a former great by retiring his jersey, the Soo Greyhounds picked up a dramatic 3-2 Ontario Hockey League victory over the Windsor Spitfires at the GFL Memorial Gardens.

A goal by Brenden Sirizzotti with 6.3 seconds to go in regulation time was the difference in a game that saw the team raise Joe Thornton’s No. 19 to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony.

While the team struggled out of the gate in the opening period, things came together as the team outshot the Spitfires by a 32-11 margin over the final 40 minutes in the win.

“Anytime a momentous occasion like this happens, we kind of predictably had a slow start,” said Greyhounds assistant coach Brendan Taylor. “You come out one of two ways, flying or a little slow. We got it back in the second period and we just stuck with it and we got rewarded for (sticking to it). We didn’t get frustrated.”

“The first period was a bit slow, but the second and third periods, we really picked it up, and obviously a huge goal at the end,” added Greyhounds captain Bryce McConnell-Barker. We dominated for most of the game.”

Spitfires coach Jerrod Smith spoke of the number of high-quality chances given up by his team in the loss.

“We definitely gave up way too many high danger chances that we have to clean things up a little bit,” Smith said. “Off the rush, I didn’t think we were getting above guys enough, especially in that second period.”

Both coaches agreed that the pre-game ceremony honouring the potential hall of famer was a major opportunity for the players.

“Not too many kids get to experience that and see it and they can grab inspiration from it,” Smith said. “I wanted them to see it on the bench and our message to them was that this is a big night here and let’s try to spoil the party.”

For the Greyhounds, Taylor said he spoke to the players prior to the game about it being a “once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

McConnell-Barker added that “we really wanted to win the game for (Thornton).”

“It was really neat to witness that in person and I really enjoyed it,” McConnell-Barker also said.

Windsor opened the scoring as Oliver Peer drove the net and redirected a pass from Alex Christopoulos on the right wing past Charlie Schenkel at 10:45.

Just over five minutes later, the Greyhounds got on the board as Justin Cloutier took a pass from Owen Allard on a 2-on-1 and beat Windsor starter Joey Costanzo high glove to tie the game at one.

Windsor regained the lead as Ryan Abraham capitalized on a Sault turnover on the power play and beat Schenkel from the left circle at 4:16 of the second period.

Windsor held onto the lead until the final frame when Travis Hayes took a pass from Connor Clattenburg on a 2-on-1 and beat Costanzo high short side from the left circle at 7:05.

Sirizzotti then capped off the win in the final seconds as he jumped on a rebound of an Arttu Karki shot in tight and beat Costanzo to give the Greyhounds the win.

Clattenburg picked up a pair of assists for the Greyhounds in the win while Schenkel stopped 19 shots.

Taylor called Schenkel “fantastic” in the win.

“He allowed our team to get its feet underneath it,” Taylor added.

Costanzo made 38 saves for the Spitfires.

Smith spoke of how Costanzo “kept us in that hockey game.”

“Especially in that late barrage in the second period,” Smith added. “They could have very easily had a couple there and kind of pulled away in the game and he was outstanding.”

The two clubs wrap up the weekend set with a matinee game on Sunday. Puck drop at the GFL Memorial Gardens is set for 2:07 p.m.

With the win, the Greyhounds improve to 10-5-0-0 while Windsor falls to 4-9-1-1 with the loss.

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