A shot at redemption via the playoffs after a sub-par regular season was not to be for the Soo Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League.
Despite turning in one of their more disciplined outings of the 2017-2018 campaign in Game 2 of the playoffs, the season came to an end for the Soo major midgets when they lost to the Timmins Majors in overtime.
It was a pair of one-goal defeats — one on the road and one at home — by 2-1 and 3-2 scores that put fourth-place Soo on the sidelines and sent fifth-place Timmins on to the second round of the playoffs.
Kevin Panco, the head coach of the Greyhound midgets, was not shy over the course of the season to blame the “negative media coverage of Randy Russon” for much of what ailed his team over the course of the 2017-2018 term.
Whatever Panco’s thoughts or reasoning may be for blaming me, the record posted by the team he was in charge of certainly speaks for itself.
The standings clearly show that the Greyhounds finished fourth among six teams in the major midget division with 30 points from a record of 13-19-4.
Even more telling were the penalty totals that the Greyhounds rang up over 36 regular season games.
In that category — most penalty minutes — the Panco-coached Greyhounds spent a league-high 831 minutes in the penalty box over the course of the 36 games.
To put that into perspective, as the Greyhounds spent 831 minutes in the penalty box, the Sudbury Nickel Capitals Wolves totaled a mere 417 minutes in penalties.
Do the very simple math.
Over 36 regular season games, the Greyhounds spent 414 more minutes in the penalty box than the Nickel Capital Wolves — almost double the amount of time served in the sin bin.
Must be all of that “negative media coverage” that caused Panco to tolerate such high penalty minute totals and the lack of discipline shown by some of the players on his team.
Really, it is rather sad how the season played out for the Soo major midgets. While they may not have had the overall talent of the first-place North Bay Trappers and second-place Sudbury, the Soo certainly had enough good players to finish in third place and within striking distance of the top.
Instead — and the numbers don’t lie, “negative media coverage” or not — the Soo finished a distant fourth.
Let the record show that North Bay topped the major midget standings with 64 points followed by Sudbury with 63, the Kapuskasing Flyers with 40, the Soo with 30, Timmins with 29 and the New Liskeard Cubs with 11.
Must have been all of the “negative media coverage of Randy Russon” that caused the Soo to finish 34 points behind North Bay and 33 points back of Sudbury.
I feel for the many good players on the Greyhound roster who were part of an underachieving season, kids like veteran forwards Avery Rebek, Caleb Wood, Owen Shier and Parker Morgan and a host of others who put forth honest efforts over the course of the campaign including the likes of rookie forwards Nick Jameus and Nick Niro, capable defensemen Jacob Doucette, Jon Mackin and Jordan Ritchie and goalies Dawson Hunter and Andrew Uschenko.
I took in about a dozen of the Soo major midget games during the 2017-2018 season — way more than any other member of the local mainstream media, by the way — and what I saw was a collection of good, above-average players who fell victim to undisciplined team play.
The penalty numbers — 831 of them — certainly back up what I was witness to over so many games.
As for the aforementioned Panco, I don’t know if he will be back behind the bench of the Greyhound major midgets again next season. What I do know is that there are qualified coaches in Sault Ste. Marie who are contemplating stepping up and applying for the annual posting of the job.
At any rate and to be honest, I would much rather write positive stories as they relate to minor hockey players and teams in Sault Ste. Marie and throughout northern Ontario.
But that doesn’t mean I am going to ignore blaring and glaring numbers such as the league-high penalty totals that the Greyhound major midgets piled up on the way to winning only 13 of 36 regular season games — and then losing out in two straight games in the first round of the playoffs.
Sorry, Mr. Panco.
As the head coach of the Greyhound major midgets, those numbers are on you, not on me, man.