Flint, MI – For the second straight time in the rivalry’s four-year history, the Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup trophy will remain in Saginaw.
Behind an early four-goal surge, the Spirit clinched their 12th win in the last 13 games over the Flint Firebirds, following Wednesday’s 9-1 win at the Dort Federal Event Center.
A fitting accomplishment to the fifth of an eight-game regular-season series for the Spirit, their record now jumps to 18-5-4-1 all-time against the in-state rival.
With the win, Saginaw has seized 17 of a possible 18 points since December 8, further lessening the divide in the race for the OHL West Division title.
The Spirit are one point behind leader Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, going 11-2-1-1 since the promotion of former assistant Chris Lazary to head coach.
Veteran forward Cole Coskey extended his point streak to nine games with his first period goal at the 52 second mark and 1-0 Spirit lead.
Receiving the dump pass from rookie Cole Perfetti, who put it past two Firebirds defenders, Coskey beat out Flint goaltender Luke Cavallin in the one-on-one matchup with a touch to the top-left corner.
Making his return to Saginaw over the 11-day break after trying out for Team USA’s 2019 World Junior Championships roster, Coskey has scored seven goals in the last eight games to remain first on the team in points (45) and total goals (20) this season.
Perfetti continues his offensive onslaught in his short time in the OHL, currently strutting the second-highest points (32) and goals total (15) among first-year players this season.
The No. 5 pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection has assisted on five goals in the last three games, including two on December 29 against the Erie Otters.
20 seconds into the first power play of the night, with Flint receiving two minutes for holding, Perfetti connected with Coskey again on a cross-ice pass at 9:36 for the empty-net goal.
Saginaw came into the game with the league’s sixth-ranked power play unit with 31 goals scored on 125 attempts for a 24.8 percent success rate.
Wednesday is the fifth game this season in which Perfetti has compiled a multi-assist outing while Coskey earns a new season-high in points in a single-game on three goals and three assists.
Coskey, 19, ended the opening frame assisting on back-to-back scores en route to a four-goal unanswered run. The first was another cross-ice play to defenseman Bode Wilde with 7:41 left, followed up with setting up Brady Gilmour’s record-setting accomplishment.
Rifling the puck from the left circle on a one-timer, Wilde, the 2018 second-round draft pick by the New York Islanders, became the sixth Spirit player to reach double-digit scoring with his 10th goal of the season.
Wilde came into the game leading all blueliners with 16 points on four goals and 12 assists over the previous 10 games. Wilde’s recent outburst on the offensive end earned him OHL Defenseman of the Month for December.
Ranked third in points (40) and second assists (30) among OHL defensemen this season, Wilde extends his point streak to seven games, dating back to December 14. Gilmour would also get credit for the secondary assist.
Gilmour, the 2017 Detroit Red Wings seventh-round draft pick, is the latest to join the list of Spirit players to surpass the 50-mark in career goals with his eighth of the season for the 4-0 lead.
The goal at 12:49 was his second goal and fifth point since returning to the lineup on December 28, having dealt with injuries that kept him out briefly for four games in December.
Despite only shooting on goal five times before the intermission, the Firebirds cut the deficit with under one second remaining on second-year forward Ethan Keppen’s 11th goal of the season from Jack Wismer and recent trade acquisition Cody Morgan.
Morgan made his debut for Flint one day after being dealt from the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for draft picks in 2020 and 2021. He was drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs with the No. 12 overall pick in 2017.
With both clubs being held to without a goal in the second period, the scoreless run ended at the five-minute mark in the third by the Spirit.
The second power play goal of the game came on Islanders fifth rounder Blade Jenkins’ 17th goal of the season and 10th since December 1 for the Jackson, Michigan, native.
Tipping the puck in from the right side off a slap shot by Coskey at the blue line, Jenkins has recorded at least one point in nine of the last 10 games, and is second on the team in goals and third in points at 38.
Maneuvering his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame past multiple Firebirds defenders to make it 6-1 at 6:30 was overage defenseman Reagan O’Grady.
Taking the pass from D.J. Busdeker near the blue line, O’Grady’s effort provided him with his fourth point since returning from injury on December 28. Four of O’Grady’s nine points this season have come in the last five days.
The final three goals scored by Saginaw came within three minutes of each other, as 17-year-old defenseman Mason Millman scored his first since the September 19 home-opener at 15:38.
Millman is one-of-11 Spirit players this season to surpass the double-digit mark in assists with 14. Camaryn Baber, Danny Katic and Millman all finished with two points on Wednesday.
Baber’s second assist of the game came with 2:11 left from Katic’s fifth goal of the season and fourth since December 15. At 18 years old, Katic has obtained seven points over the last six games. Baber has notched two goals and four assists for six points in 23 games played.
The first career hat trick in four seasons for Coskey would seal his outpour at 18:25. The nine goals are a season-high for Saginaw, a feat that hasn’t been matched since November 10, 2013.
The man-down unit for the Spirit, which prior to Wednesday, was 10th in the league with 25 goals allowed of 123 attempts for a 79.7 percent success rate, killed four of Flint’s power plays.
2018 Arizona Coyotes goaltending prospect Ivan Prosvetov recorded 21 saves to up his winning streak to six games, which began on December 9 against the Mississauga Steelheads.
Born in Moscow, Russia, Prosvetov improves his goals against average (GAA) to 3.22 with a 0.896 save percentage (SAV%). Shots on goal favored the Spirit, 39-22.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
1. Cole Coskey (SAG) – 3G, 3A, +4
2. Bode Wilde (SAG) – G, 2A, +3
3. Brady Gilmour (SAG) – G, A, +3
Discounted tickets are available for $13 for Saturday, December 5, when Saginaw hosts the Kitchener Rangers at The Dow Event Center at 7:05 p.m.
$5 from every ticket purchased will be donated to Holly Cross Services, a non-profit healthcare organization, who works to bring hope, promote change, and help children and adults live free, healthy and productive lives.
Speaking on behalf of the religious provider, Detroit Red Wings radio play-by-play announcer Ken Kal and Red Wings broadcast commentator Ken Daniels will be at the Budweiser Red Room 5:30-6:30 p.m. for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities.
Saturday will be the first of a three-game home stand for the Spirit, who’ll wrap up the four-game series against Kitchener. The Rangers are seated seventh in the OHL Western Conference standings at 35 points.
Listen live on the flagship WSGW 100.5 FM Talk & Sports and fmtalk1005.com with Joey Battaino and Dennis Desrosiers. Pre-game coverage starts 15 minutes before puck drop.
To purchase your tickets for all Saginaw home games, call (989) 497-7747, visitsaginawspirit.com, or by visiting the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw, MI.