Game Day Preview: Spirit take on Firebirds in Flint Friday

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Flint, MI. – The Saginaw Spirit face-off against the in-state rival Flint Firebirds for the sixth installment in this season’s Coors Light I-75 Divide Rivalry Friday, January.  Puck drop from The Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, Michigan begins at 7:00 p.m.

Flint defeated Saginaw in the last matchup with a 6-5 decision at The Dow Event Center Wednesday night.  Despite the loss, the Spirit leads this year’s season series with a record of 3-2-0-0 against the West Division rival Firebirds.  Each team has won the I-75 Divide cup twice since its inception in the 2015-16 season.

The Spirit have earned at least a point on the road in Flint in each of the last 12 games with a record of 10-0-2-0 during that time.  Saginaw has won the last seven games against Flint on the road at Dort Federal Event Center.

Fans can catch all the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and with the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call.  “Countdown to Face-off” begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.

Fans can visit the Buffalo Wild Wings location at 2690 Tittabawassee Road in Saginaw and join the official “Watch Party” for all Spirit away games. Admission is free of charge.

The Spirit made big news Friday, acquiring Carolina Hurricanes first round pick Ryan Suzuki, the rights to two players, and a draft pick from the Barrie Colts.

“We are thrilled to add an elite player and person in Ryan Suzuki to our lineup today,” said Drinkill. “Suzuki is a player we have watched grow immensely over the last two seasons. His vision and puck skills are up there with some of the best players in the league. We believe Ryan will make a substantial contribution to our club during the stretch run as we defend our West Division title.”

Suzuki, 18, is a former number one overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection. The 6’1, 182-pound center was selected in the first round, 28th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The London, Ontario native is coming off his most successful season in the OHL, posting 75 points in 65 games during the 2018-19 season. An eye injury suffered in early November sidelined Suzuki for nearly two months, slowing his rapid scoring pace. Now fully recovered, Suzuki has posted five goals and 18 assists in 21 games this season.

Internationally, Suzuki has competed in both the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge (2017) and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup (2019), winning a silver medal with Team Canada last summer.

‘A’ rated 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti extend his point streak to a career-high nine games with an assist in Wednesday’s game against the Firebirds.  With the assist, Perfetti passed Spirit alum Jimmy Lodge for 17th in team-history with 79 career assists.  The Saginaw Spirit leading scorer passed Lodge having played in 85 fewer games in his career.  The Whitby, Ontario native Perfetti is tied for third in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 64 points (22G, 42A) this season.

New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey tied former NHLer and Spirit alum Jordan Szwarz for fifth in team-history with 204 points in his career with a goal in the first period of the game against Flint.  The Zion, Illinois native Coskey has 20 goals and 29 assists this season for the Saginaw Spirit.  The right-winger is 15th in the OHL this season with 49 points.

The Spirit have three players in the OHL’s top-20 in defensive scoring this season in Ilya Solovyov (13th), Mason Millman (17th), and D.J. Busdeker (18th).

Solovyov, a 2019 CHL Import Draft first round pick of the Spirit, is third among Saginaw Spirit players this season with 25 assists.  The Saginaw defenseman is 13th among OHL defenseman even though Solovyov missed seven games in December as he played with the Belarusian team during the U-20 World Junior Championships.

Philadelphia Flyers fourth round pick notched his 11th goal for Saginaw in the defeat Wednesday to the Firebirds.  In just 35 games this season, Millman has set his career-high output with 11 goals and 26 assists.

Dexter, Michigan native Busdeker electrified fans with an end-to-end goal against the Firebirds Wednesday.  The overage defenseman has a point in each of the last three games for the Saginaw Spirit.

Newly acquired Flint Firebirds forward Riley Piercey scored two goals against the Spirit in his debut Wednesday with his new team.  The 2020 NHL Draft prospect has 11 goals and four assists for 15 points in 36 games this season.

Flint Firebirds leading scorer Evgeniy Oksentyuk extended his point streak to a team-high 14 games with two goals in the game Wednesday night.  In 32 games this season, the Brest, Belarus native Oksentyuk has 19 goals and 25 assists for 44 points.

2018 Dallas Stars first round pick Ty Dellandrea will make his return to the Firebirds lineup on Friday evening after he won the gold medal with Team Canada in the U-20 World Junior Championships.  In Dellandrea’s last three games played with Flint, the center had six goals and five assists, including two four-point games versus the North Bay Battalion and Barrie Colts.

The Flint Firebirds have four players on their roster drafted by NHL clubs, forwards Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), defenseman Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers).

The Saginaw Spirit have a total of five players on their roster with NHL ties. Ryan Suzuki (Carolina Hurricanes – signed), Blade Jenkins (NY Islanders), Cole Coskey (NY Islanders), Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers), and Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild).

Saginaw has two players listed in the 2020 NHL Central Scouting ‘Players to Watch’ list, including ‘A’ prospect Cole Perfetti. Rookie Ilya Solovyov is listed as a ‘C’ prospect.  Flint forward Evan Vierling was also listed as a ‘C’ prospect in the 2020 NHL Central Scouting ‘Players to Watch list’.

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