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Preview: Spirit, Rangers meet Friday at The Aud in Kitchener

 

Spirit looking for third win in a row against Rangers

The Saginaw Spirit wrap up their three-game road trip Friday when they visit the Kitchener Rangers for the final time in the regular season. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (EST) at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

 

Friday will be third regular-season meeting against the OHL Western Conference foe. Saginaw took a 4-3 decision at Kitchener back on October 5 as overager Albert Michnac scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

 

Through 21 games this season, the Rangers are seventh in the Western Conference standings at 20 points. With nine wins, 10 losses and one defeat in overtime, Kitchener also sit seven points behind first place leader Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

 

After falling by two goals on the road to the Erie Otters on Wednesday, November 14, Kitchener looks to end its two-game losing skid with its last win coming at home last Friday, November 9, in a 6-5 shootout against the Sarnia Sting.

 

The 6-4 loss to Erie saw three unanswered goals scored in the third period after the Rangers held a two-goal lead at the midway point of the second period, finishing the previous 10 games with a 3-7-0-0 record.

 

Saginaw responded from Sunday’s 7-1 road loss to West Division foe Windsor Spitfires by taking Game 3 of the Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup in Wednesday’s 4-2 win at the Dort Federal Event Center over in-state rival Flint Firebirds.

 

Saginaw captured its fourth road win and 24th point this season to remain in fifth place in the Western Conference, three points behind second-place Owen Sound Attack.

 

In what was their five consecutive win against Flint and 11th in the last 12 meetings dating back to the 2016-17 season, the Spirit clinched their third win in the last four games, scoring 10 combined goals against the Mississauga Steelheads and Greyhounds over the weekend to conclude a four-game home stand.

 

New York Islanders prospect Blade Jenkins recorded his eighth goal for 15 points through 11 career games played against the Firebirds, bringing the forward’s goal total to five since November 3 in Saginaw’s shootout win over the Guelph Storm.

 

Fellow 2018 Islanders draft-pick Bode Wilde earned his first multi-point performance in the four games after suffering an upper body injury. Through 14 games played, the defenseman has notched three goals and 14 assists for 17 points.

 

Rookie Cole Perfetti, head coach Troy Smith and assistant coach Ryan Kuwabara all returned to the bench Wednesday after taking part in last week’s 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Saint John and Quispamsis, New Brunswick.

 

Perfetti, whose second period tip-in goal gave the Spirit a 3-1 lead, led all players in the tournament with seven assists and second in points with nine as a representative of Team Canada White. The Whitby, Ontario, native ranks third among all league rookies with 13 points.

 

Smith served as an assistant coach for Team Canada Black and Kuwabara was the video coordinator for Team Canada White. Rookie goaltender Tristan Lennox, who was reassigned to the Ontario Junior Hockey League back in early October, played in three games for Team Canada White, making 89 total saves and allowing just three goals.

 

Saginaw goaltender Ivan Prosvetov picked up his eighth win and made 26 saves at Flint. The Arizona Coyotes prospect has a goals against average (GAA) of 3.36 and a .880 save percentage (SAV%) through 15 appearances in his first season with the Spirit.

 

17-year-old defenseman Mason Millman received second-star honors with his two assists and first multi-point performance this season. Millman has recorded at least one assist in four of the last six games.

 

On special teams, the Spirit have the fourth best power play in the OHL, converting 24.6 percent of all man-up opportunities for 17 goals. Penalty killing for Saginaw is 11th the league, allowing 13 goals for a 80.6 percent success rate. Going man-down just 67 times this season is tied for fifth with the Niagara IceDogs.

 

Michnac still leads all Spirit players offensively with 23 goals, scoring eight goals and assisting on 15. At the time, the forward’s league-leading 13 game points streak came to an end on October 28 in the 5-3 loss to the Sarnia Sting.

 

Second-year forward Nicholas Porco carved out Wednesday’s opening goal with 5:25 into the opening frame against Flint. Porco is the first player for Saginaw to reach double-digit scores and sits third in points at 18.

 

Veteran right-winger Cole Coskey recently celebrated his 50th career goal on November 10 in the 5-3 win over Sault Ste. Marie, upping his points total to 21 with nine goals and 12 assists this season.

 

Goaltender Cameron Lamour made his sixth start in the loss to Windsor, stopping three shots in over 11 minutes of work. Minnesota Wild prospect Damien Giroux’s +7 is the highest plus-minus rating for the Spirit.

 

Four players for Kitchener have surpassed the 20-points mark this season, led by forwards Jonathan Yantsis and Rickard Hugge with 25 each. Both players have also double-digit goals as Yantsis has notched 16, including four in the last four games.

 

Assist leaders for the Rangers are forwards Riley Damiani and Greg Meireles with eight.  Four-year veteran Nick McHugh holds the club’s highest plus-minus rating of +4, but has been out of action since October 19, playing in 10 games this season.

 

Former 2015 OHL Priority Selection goaltender Luke Richardson has made 17 appearances, averaging over 27 saves per game and has compiled a 7-9-0-1 record with a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.35 and .898 save percentage (SAV%).

 

On special teams, Kitchener is the league’s fourth best club on the power play with 18 goals for a 25 percent success rate. The Rangers also have allowed the fewest penalty at 57, killing 80 percent of their man-down situations.

 

There will be a combined eight players on the ice Friday with their rights owned by NHL teams. For the Rangers, it’ll be Moscow, Russia native Alexey Lipanov (Tampa Bay) and Damiani (Dallas). Detroit Red Wings prospects Brady Gilmour and Reilly Webb, Wilde (NY Islanders), Jenkins (NY Islanders), Giroux (Minnesota) and Prosvetov (Arizona) will represent the Spirit.

 

Saginaw makes it return to The Dow Event Center this Saturday, November 16, hosting the Spitfires with the puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive a Damien Giroux player poster presented by Jets Pizza and Giroux will hold an autograph session following the game.

 

To purchase your tickets for all Saginaw home games, call (989) 497-7747, visit saginawspirit.com or by visiting the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw, MI.

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