Saginaw, MI – The Saginaw Spirit have clinched the Ontario Hockey League West Division title for the first time in eight years.
The Spirit have guaranteed themselves one of the top two spots in this year’s playoffs after extending their team points record to 96.
That’s despite falling to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at The Dow Event Center in overtime, 2-1 on Thursday in front of 4,687 at The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan.
Damien Giroux, who registered two goals Tuesday in the win over the Sarnia Sting, had Saginaw on the board three minutes into the opening period.
As Camaryn Baber forced a turnover inside Sault Ste Marie’s zone, the captain and Minnesota Wild prospect would beat the extended left pad of Matthew Villalta, picking up his 30th goal and 50th point on the season.
A wrist shot near the blue line by Jaromir Pytlik tied the game 14 seconds after the Spirit went on the penalty kill for the first time at 13:17.
Saginaw entered Thursday with the third-highest man-down success rate in the OHL.
The scoreless second period saw the Spirit down a player in the final 1:40. 2018 Arizona Coyotes goaltending prospect Ivan Prosvetov had 19 recorded saves after 40 minutes.
Prosvetov, who had wins in each of his last eight starts, stopped 26 shots but took the loss for the first time since February 16.
The Spirit received their first power play at 5:10 in the third period and were later handed another with 9:12 left.
Both of which would come after Sault Ste. Marie went on the man-advantage for the fourth time. It’d last 10 seconds once Villalta, the level-entry signee with the Los Angeles Kings, was whistled for delay of game.
Villalta finished with 33 saves in his fifth appearance against the Spirit this season.
The 1-1 score held up through regulation and until 2:22 in overtime.
Before Prosvetov could stretch out his stick, 2018 Coyotes first-round (5th overall) pick Barrett Hayton found the open net from the left circle, for his 23rd goal of the year.
It’s the first overtime loss for the Spirit in nearly three months.
Saginaw, whose all-time nine-game winning streak comes to end, posted 34 shots on goal.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Barrett Hayton (SOO) – GWG, A
- Damien Giroux (SAG) – G, +1
- Matthew Villata (SOO) – W, 33 SVs
The Spirit host the London Knights Saturday in the final home game of the regular-season.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (EST).
Listen live on OHLLive.com, the flagship WSGW 100.5 FM Talk & Sports and fmtalk1005.com with Joey Battaino and Dennis Desrosiers. “Countdown to Faceoff” with host Domenic Papa starts at 6:50 p.m. (EST).
Justin Murray, Reagan O’Grady and Albert Michnac will be recognized in the Overage Ceremony prior to puck drop on Fan Appreciation Night.
There will be a live postgame jersey auction open to the public with Saturday being the final opportunity to turn in ‘Any Game, Any Time Tickets’ this season.
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.