Saginaw, MI – The historic 2018-19 Saginaw Spirit season came to an end with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss Monday evening in Game Seven of the Western Conference Championship Series.
Guelph won the best-of-seven series, 4-3 and will take on the Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Championship Series.
Saginaw Spirit captain Damien Giroux collected third star honors with two goals in Game seven.
16-year old rookie Tristan Lennox made 30 saves in Game seven and made a total of 107 saves in Games five, six and seven combined.
Saginaw took an early lead just over three minutes into the first period with Minnesota Wild prospect Giroux’s eighth goal of the postseason. Detroit Red Wings draft pick Brady Gilmour slid a pass to the Spirit captain in the slot and Giroux redirected the pass through the Storm net-minder Anthony Popovich’s five-hole.
Before Game seven, Saginaw was 6-0 when the Hanmer, Ontario native Giroux scored a goal in this season’s playoffs.
The Spirit alternate captain Gilmour led all Saginaw Spirit players with 15 assists this postseason.
Guelph’s Cedric Ralph tied the game with 6:50 left in the first frame with his second goal of the best-of-seven series. The Storm left-winger redirected a shot from the point and collected his own rebound for the goal.
The Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe nearly gave Guelph the lead with just under five minutes left in the period. After a point shot deflected off the glass to the left of the crease, the Philadelphia Flyers first round pick rebounded the puck toward the net. 16-year old Tristan Lennox dove across the crease to make a stick save on Ratcliffe.
The Storm outshot the Spirit, 14-10 in the first, but the teams were tied after 20 minutes of play.
The rookie Saginaw net-minder Lennox stoned Nate Schnarr early in the second period of play. Schnarr, an Arizona Coyotes third round pick, was alone in the slot and sent a backhander toward the net. Lennox was on his stomach but was able to reach up with the blocker to keep the puck out of the net.
St. Louis Blues fourth round selection Alexey Toropchenko gave the Storm their first lead of the game 4:54 into the second period. The Guelph right-winger sent a shot into the top-right corner of the Saginaw net from the top of the slot on a two-on-two rush for his sixth goal of the postseason.
The goal was the Russian forward’s first of the Western Conference Championship Series.
2017 Florida Panthers 10th overall pick Owen Tippett nearly tied the game up for the Spirit just minutes later. The Mississauga, Ontario native rocketed a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that Popovich fought off with his blocker.
The Toropchenko tally was the only goal scored in the second period and the Storm took a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission.
After Saginaw killed a carryover man-power disadvantage, Tippett nearly scored to tie the game early in the final frame. The Spirit leading scorer collected a rebound in the slot and released a backhand that just hit the side of the net.
The Spirit just missed an opportunity to even the score on a two-on-one rush just over five minutes into the third period. Edmonton Oilers second round selection Ryan McLeod kept the puck into the Storm zone and rifled a pass over to rookie Cole Perfetti. The Saginaw Spirit first round pick just missed the one-time opportunity for the open net.
Lennox made several saves midway through the final frame as the Spirit killed a double-minor four-minute roughing penalty to keep Saginaw within reach.
Montreal Canadiens signee Nick Suzuki added an empty-net goal with just 1:20 left in regulation to extend his point streak to 11 games.
Giroux answered with his second goal of the game just 16 seconds later to bring the Spirit within a goal. The Spirit captain used his speed to go around a Guelph defender and flipped a shot top-shelf in close for his ninth goal of the postseason.
Saginaw received their first man-power advantage with three seconds left in regulation, but unable to create a last second scoring opportunity. Guelph captured the Wayne Gretzky Trophy for the third time since the trophy’s inception in 1999. The last time the Storm won the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, they went on to beat the North Bay Battalion in the 2014 OHL Championship Series.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Tristan Lennox (SAG) 30 saves
- Owen Lalonde (GUE) 2A
- Damien Giroux (SAG) 2G
The Saginaw Spirit Organization would like to thank the fans for being apart of the historic 2018-19 season. We invite you to join us on Opening Night next season when the Spirit will raise the 2019 West Division Championship banner.