North Bay, ON. – The West Division-leading Saginaw Spirit clinched a playoff spot after a 6-3 victory over the North Bay Battalion Sunday afternoon to finish a three-game Northern Ontario road trip. Saginaw took five out of a possible six points during the road trip and pass the Flint Firebirds for the West Division lead.
The Spirit’s high-flying offense scored 21 goals in the three games they played away from home.
Saginaw Spirit captain Damien Giroux and overager D.J. Busdeker each collected four points in the game to lead the way offensively.
With a two-point effort against the Battalion, 2020 NHL Draft eligible Cole Perfetti broke the Saginaw Spirit single season record with 102 points this season.
The Spirit wasted no time to find the back of the net against former Saginaw Spirit goaltender Cameron Lamour after Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker tallied his 18th goal of the season on Saginaw’s first registered shot of the game. Captain Damien Giroux chipped a pass back to the right point, where defenseman Ilya Solovyov gathered the puck and waited for the play to develop.
Solovyov sent a cross-ice pass to Busdeker, who had just entered the North Bay zone. The overager Busdeker drifted down to the top of the left face-off circle, where the left-winger sent a wrist shot that beat Lamour over the shoulder for the 1-0 lead.
New York Islanders prospect Blade Jenkins gave Saginaw a two-goal lead five minutes into the first period, which resulted from tick-tack-toe passing from the Spirit. From the left-circle, Minnesota Wild fifth-round draft pick Giroux fired a pass to Busdeker at the right half-wall. Busdeker quickly sent a pass-through traffic to Jenkins at the backdoor of the Battalion net for the easy tap in tally, which was the forwards 13th goal of the season.
Fourth ranked North American 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti tallied his 35th goal of the season to break the Saginaw Spirit single season record with 101 points, which pass Spirit alum Jack Combs’ 100 points from the 2007-08 season. Defenseman D.J. King outworked a North Bay defender along the board for the puck and sent a pass to the high slot to New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey. The Saginaw Spirit all-time games leader Coskey took the pass and left the puck in the slot for Perfetti and took the Battalion defender with him. Perfetti took the puck and sniped a wrist shot past Lamour’s shoulder off the crossbar and down into the goal for the 3-0 lead 6:43 into the opening frame.
Saginaw’s defense and Spirit goaltender Tristan Lennox were solid in the first period and kept the Battalion scoreless, despite a 11-8 shot advantage for North Bay.
Rookie forward Josh Bloom denied a North Bay scoring opportunity with a back check late in the first period to help the Saginaw defense. North Bay rookie David Campbell grabbed the puck and attacked the Spirit zone with speed. Campbell, a 2018 North Bay Battalion fourth-round pick, pulled the puck around a Saginaw defenseman near the right circle of the Spirit end, but the 2019 Saginaw Spirit second-round pick Bloom hustled back and poked the puck off the Battalion right-winger’s stick away from danger.
The Saginaw Spirit took a 3-0 lead over North Bay into the first intermission.
Just over a minute into the middle frame the Spirit nearly extended the lead off a creative pass from New York Islanders signee Bode Wilde. Wilde, a 2018 second-round pick of the Islanders, received a pass from Saginaw, Michigan native Mitchell Smith at center point.
Wilde fired a slap pass to the left of the net for an attempted tip in from Smith, who had crashed towards the net. Before the rookie defenseman Smith could tap the puck into the net, Lamour slid over to make a pad save to keep the deficit three goals.
Saginaw kept the pressure up and pulled ahead by four goals 4:11 into the second period of play on Damien Giroux’s team-leading 38th goal of the season. Former Detroit Red Wings draft pick Riley Webb dumped the puck into the right corner of the North Bay zone, where it bounded right to Busdeker at the right circle. The overager Busdeker fired a quick pass to the front of the net, where Giroux had an easy tap-in for the 4-0 lead.
The Saginaw captain tallied his second goal of the game 12:59 into the second period to put the Spirit ahead, 5-0. Blade Jenkins fought for control of the puck to the right of the crease and centered a turnaround pass to the Battalion slot, where it bounced off Giroux’s stick that was tied up from a North Bay defenseman and deflected into the goal for his 39th of the season.
Spirit netminder Tristan Lennox continued his strong play in the second period with a point blank save off a fortuitous Battalion bounce in the Saginaw zone. After a Saginaw defenseman hammered a North Bay forward with a check behind the Spirit net, the puck bounced into the Saginaw slot. Rookie centerman Liam Arnsby was all alone high in the Saginaw slot, where he one-timed the puck that Lennox stopped with his right shoulder to keep the Spirit ahead by five goals with just over five minutes left in the second period.
Rookie Josh Bloom’s two-way play was awarded with his sixth goal of the season with 2:05 left in the second period. Saginaw Spirit leading scorer Cole Perfetti was able to fight off a North Bay defender and skated around another Battalion player before he centered a pass from the bottom of the left circle. Bloom was parked at the left hashmarks of the slot and one-timed a shot into the top corner to give Saginaw the 6-0 lead and extend his point streak to a career-high four games.
Lennox’s shutout bid was broken up with 44 seconds left in the second period on North Bay forward Chad Danault’s fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Simon Rose dumped a pass down to Harrison Cains in the Saginaw corner, where the forward centered a pass to the Spirit slot. Danault one-timed the puck over Lennox’s right shoulder to pull the Battalion back to within five goals as the teams headed into the second intermission.
Saginaw led 6-1 after two periods of play despite North Bay’s 21-17 shot advantage after two frames.
After penalties to both Bode Wilde and Mitchell Smith on the same play, the Battalion was awarded with a two-minute five-on-three man-power advantage. With Saginaw down two players, North Bay was able to convert on the man-power advantage with overager Shane Bulitka’s 22nd goal of the season. 2020 NHL Draft prospect Brandon Coe controlled the puck near the left goal line in the Saginaw corner, where the right-winger fired a pass through the slot to Bulitka at the bottom of the right face-off circle. Lennox slid over for the attempted desperation save but the Battalion left-winger’s shot just slid under the goaltender’s pad to make it a 6-2 game with 12:56 left in regulation.
With just 1:31 left in regulation the Battalion pulled to within three goals on rookie forward Alex Christopoulos’ ninth goal of the season. A Spirit player had the puck stripped from their stick at the Saginaw blueline by North Bay’s Kyle Jackson. Jackson took the puck to the left circle and sent a pass to Christopoulos, who had trailed the play. The North Bay third-round pick sniped a shot from the top of the right face-off circle over Tristan Lennox’s shoulder to make it 6-3 Saginaw.
Lennox made 24 saves on 27 North Bay shots to earn his 16th win of the season and Saginaw has earned a point in seven of the past eight games the goaltender has played.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Damien Giroux(SAG) 2G, 2A +4
- D.J. Busdeker(SAG) G, 3A +4
- Blade Jenkins(SAG) G, A +4
The Spirit return home Friday, February 28 to host the OHL’s rookie scoring leader Shane Wright and the Kingston Frontenacs for the second and final meeting of the season. Puck drop from the Wendler Arena inside The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan begins at 7:05 p.m.
Fans can catch the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and www.wsgw.com with Art Lewis and the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” with host Charley Porter begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.
To purchase tickets to any Saginaw Spirit home game call (989) 497-7747, visit www.saginawspirit.com, or visit the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw MI.