Attack swings through Lucknow

OHL team ends 2011 on winning note

By Josh Howald

A successful three-game set for the Owen Sound Attack started in Lucknow Wednesday evening.

The Ontario Hockey League squad played three games in three days before breaking for Christmas, with two of those on the road. The Attack ran into a hot goalie Saturday night, but edged out Kitchener for a 3-1 win at home Friday night, the team lost 5-3 in Sarnia after a big 6-4 win the previous night in Windsor.

The team departed for Windsor from the Lucknow Arena Wednesday night after holding an open practice and community skate in Huron-Kinloss. A couple hundred people watched first-year coach Greg Ireland put the defending OHL champs through their paces.

“This is probably the best ice surface we have skated on in a long time,” said Ireland. “But it should be, because it’s so darn cold.”

The Attack did a bit of skills work under Ireland and assistant Terry Virtue, and finished up the ice time with a shootout. It was partly for the crowd’s benefit, but also to see if certain players can still score with people in the stands. But it was still light-hearted, with the last player to score having to eat a lemon in the dressing room following practice.

The Attack held the open skate in an attempt to reach out to surrounding communities in Grey-Bruce. It was the second such practice the team has held this season. Owen Sound visited the P&H Centre in Hanover earlier in the year. Though there are no more planned for this season, the coaching staff and players don’t mind taking the show on the road.

“It’s nice to get out to different barns, and a little variety puts some jump in our step when we’re doing the same thing every day,” said Ireland. “And I think the players like it because they get sick of the same monotonous routine too. It worked out real neat this time because we (were) on our way to Windsor, and it’s an opportunity to break up that drive too. We hope we’re able to win over a few fans here in Lucknow today.”

Jordan Binnington peers past a pair of teammates in Lucknow last Wednesday evening. (Josh Howald photos)

Ireland was optimistic before leaving for Windsor, where the Attack posted a 6-4 win over the Spits. It’s a good time to be with the Attack. After last year’s memorable playoff run, Owen Sound has a very young team. But the team is hanging tough in the standings, fifth overall in the OHL Western Conference with an 18-4-2-2 record. The four-point swing lifted Owen Sound past Windsor in the standings.

“Well, we’re a pretty happy team right now,” said Ireland, who coached Kincardine’s Travis Riggin as a 14-year-old in Milton.

“Over the last 20 games we’ve had real good consistency and we see ourselves getting better. We’re still finding holes in our game, and as coaches we can never be happy and that’s the nature of our business. But we are growing as a team and I like where I see us headed.”

The Attack also raffled off an autographed jersey, and the players signed autographs and ate a meal following the skate.

“We want to show people the quality, where OHL skill level is at. OHL hockey is good hockey you can bring the family to watch, and to see these kids play before they hit the National Hockey League. I certainly hope we have a few Attack fans in Lucknow.”

Owen Sound will be back in action Dec. 28 at home, when the Niagara Ice Dogs will visit the Harry Lumley Bayshore.