Saginaw, Michigan – The Saginaw Spirit return to The Dow Event for a rematch Saturday night with OHL Western Conference rival, Guelph Storm for First Responders Night. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. (ET) with a Brady Gilmour player poster give-away item for fans presented by Jet’s Pizza.
Saturday will mark the second of four regular-season meetings between the two clubs, who both sit in the top-five of the West through the first quarter of the 2018-19 campaign.
While the Storm have played two more games than the host, they’ve won nine games with just four regulation losses and three in overtime for 21 points, second behind only the Soo Greyhounds.
It’ll be the first time Saginaw has welcomed the Storm to The Dow since a five-goal comeback that led to the 6-5 finish in overtime back on Sept. 29. The Spirit have seen three games decided beyond regulation with last Saturday’s Pink Out night ending in a 3-2 shootout loss at home to the Niagara IceDogs.
Saginaw had the week off after falling to the Sarnia Sting in its first game on the road since Oct. 17, losing for just the fifth time this season to remain in fifth place in the Western Conference at seven wins for 16 points.
There will be a couple familiar faces gone from the bench for the Spirit on Saturday as 2018 OHL Priority Selection first-rounder Cole Perfetti, head coach Troy Smith and assistant coach Ryan Kuwabara were selected to represent one of the three Canadian rosters – Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red and Team Canada White – competing at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B.
The tournament will feature all three teams and representatives from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Rookie goaltender Tristan Lennox was also picked to take part in the international competition. Lennox will join Perfetti (forward) and Kuwabara (video coordinator) on the Team Canada White roster as Smith becomes an assistant coach for Team Canada Black.
Perfetti has enjoyed a successful rookie campaign through 13 games played, in the top-four in OHL rookie scoring with 12 points, good for second in the league. The Whitby, Ontario, native was taken fifth overall in the draft and has accumulated eight goals and four assists.
The Spirit’s two-goal setback from the Progressive Auto Sales Arena against the Sting saw alternate captain and Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker receiving second star honors after notching two assists for a plus-minus of +2. Perfetti, right-winger Cole Coskey and forward Aidan Preuter all scored in the first two periods.
Third-year goaltender Cameron Lamour earned his seventh start and seventh appearance this season, stopping 22-of-26 shots to hold his goals-against average (GAA) at 3.91 and a .853 save percentage (SAV%). Lamour also played nearly 43 minutes the day prior in the loss to Niagara, collecting 15 saves and stopping one shot in the shootout.
2018 Arizona Coyotes prospect Ivan Prosvetov, previously limited to appearing in only games in the United States since September, has finally been given the proper paperwork to play in Canada. The announcement was made this past Tuesday by Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill.
Prosvetov also will represent Team Russia in Game-3 of the 2018 CHL CIBC Canada/Russia Series on Thursday, Nov. 8, in Sarnia. The tournament pits a team selected by the Russian Ice Hockey Federation playing two games each against teams from all three umbrella leagues of the CHL.
Prosvetov recently picking his first OHL shutout on Oct. 20 against in-state Flint Firebirds, leading to his five regular-season wins through nine games with the Spirit. The first-round choice of the 2018 OHL Import Draft has totaled 182 saves for a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.01 and a .879 save percentage (SAV%).
Overager Albert Michnac leads all Saginaw players with 21 points, sitting in a three-way tie at eight goals alongside rookie Cole Perfetti and second-second-year forward Nicholas Porco. Michnac’s league-leading 13 points streak came to an end after being held scoreless against Sarnia.
Despite averaging at least one point after the loss to the IceDogs, alternate captain and Detroit Red Wings prosecute Brady Gilmour also finished scoreless on Sunday. Gilmour, with five goals and eight assists for 13 points, would score the game-tying goal last Saturday in the second period to force overtime.
Coskey is second on the Spirit roster with 17 points. Coming into Saturday at six goals and 11 assists, the former third-round choice in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection tied the game at two-goals apiece at the midway point of the second period against Sarnia.
Busdeker’s rise in production has led to seven combined points, including two goals, in the previous five games played since Oct. 17. Giroux and Poco also tied with Perfetti for 12 points.
It was also announced Wednesday that the Spirit have traded third-year forward Max Grondin to the Peterborough Petes in exchange for a second round pick in 2024 and third round pick in 2020. At 18 years old, Grondin scored 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points in 147 career games with Saginaw.
On special teams, the Spirit are the fewest penalized club in the league with just 44 penalty kills for a success rate of 84.1 percent. Saginaw ranks ninth on the power play with 10 man-up goals at 19.7 percent.
The Storm will play the final of back-to-back games Saturday after losing 4-3 in overtime from the GFL Memorial Gardens against Sault Ste. Marie. Friday marked the first time both teams met since Guelph snapped a 20 consecutive losing streak to the Western Conference leader dating back to March 2, 2014.
The Storm handled the Kitchener Rangers at home in a decisive 6-2 win last Tuesday. The Spirit won’t see Guelph again until Jan. 30 in their first trip to Sleeman Centre this season.
2017 Arizona Coyotes prospect Nate Schnarr has picked up eight points in the last five games to lead his team with 23 total points. The four-year OHL veteran scored twice on Oct. 19 against Kitchener for his second game with more than one goal this season. Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Isaac Ratcliffe ranks first in total goals with 13 and second in points at 21.
Future Dallas Stars member Liam Hawel is nearing the double-digit mark in goals with eight. Hawel and Ratcliffe both scored in Guelph’s last win over the Rangers as the club went 3-of-4 on the power play and shot on goal 39 times. The Storm are third in the OHL with 18 goals for a 28.6 percent success rate on man-up situations.
Goaltender Anthony Popovich has appeared in 12 games and earned seven wins this season. With a 3.73 goals against average and .876 save percentage, the seven-round draft pick in 2015 stopped 25 shots in the loss to the Greyhounds.
There will be a combined 13 players on the ice Saturday with their right owned by NHL teams. For the Storm, it’ll be Liam Hawel (Dallas), Cam Hillis (Montreal), Ryan Merkley (San Jose), Isaac Ratcliffe (Philadelphia), Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton), Nate Schnarr (Arizona) and Alexey Toropchenko (St. Louis).
Gilmour (Detroit Red Wings), forward Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders), Giroux (Minnesota), defensemen Bode Wilde (New York Islanders) and Reilly Webb (Detroit Red Wings), and Prosvetov (Arizona Coyotes) will represent the Spirit.
Saginaw will continue their four-game home stand on Sunday, Nov. 4, for Nexteer
Robotics Night at The Dow Event Center against the Ottawa 67’s with puck drop set for 5:30 p.m. (ET). Fans have the opportunity to skate on the ice following the game’s conclusion.
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.