Saginaw, MI – The West Division champion Saginaw Spirit dropped their final home game of the regular season, 5-2 against the London Knights Saturday evening. A sellout crowd of 5,712 fans cheered on the Saginaw Spirit at The Dow Event Center.
The Spirit are locked into the Western Conference’s second seed heading into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs.
The Spirit will take on the seventh-seeded Sarnia Sting in the first round of the playoffs.
The Saginaw Spirit honored overage players Reagan O’Grady, Albert Michnac, and Justin Murray before the game. The three played their final regular season home game of their OHL careers. The overagers have been integral to the Spirit success this season.
Arizona Coyotes fourth round pick Ivan Prosvetov and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jordan Kooy was strong between the pipes in the first period.
Saginaw opened the scoring just over 10 minutes into the opening period with rookie Cole Perfetti’s 37th goal of the season. After 2017 Florida Panthers 10th overall pick Owen Tippett sent Perfetti a lead pass, the two came into the London zone on a two-on-one rush.
The OHL’s rookie scoring leader’s shot rebounded up in the air off Knights’ goaltender Jordan Kooy, Perfetti hit the puck out of mid-air into the London net.
With the goal, the Whitby, Ontario native had scored the Spirit’s previous five consecutive goals against the Knights. The 17-year old leads all OHL rookies in goals (37) and points (74) this year.
London was able to even up the score with just under five minutes remaining in the first period on the power play. 2018 Edmonton Oilers 10th overall pick Evan Bouchard beat Prosvetov over the glove hand with a wrist shot from the top of the left face-off circle.
Prosvetov made a huge save in the waning minutes of the first period after a turnover in the Spirit end. London leading scorer Kevin Hancock tried to beat the Russian goaltender with a backhand in the slot that Prosvetov denied with a glove save.
Both teams had 15 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of play and took a 1-1 tie into the first intermission.
The Knights took an early 2-1 second period lead with their second goal with the man-power advantage of the game. Hancock was able to tip in his 51st goal of the season after Ottawa Senators signee Alex Formenton’s shot squeaked through Prosvetov’s pads.
The overager Hancock leads all London players in goals (51), assists (55), and points (106).
The Saginaw Spirit penalty kill was tested midway through the second period after defenseman Hayden Davis was called for a double-minor cross-checking penalty.
Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker tied the game with an incredible individual effort for a short-handed tally. The Spirit alternate captain used his speed to deke around two London defenders and sent a perfect wrist shot from the right face-off dot past Kooy’s blocker.
Saginaw captain Damien Giroux extended his point streak to three games with the assist on Budeker’s shorthanded goal. The Minnesota Wild prospect hit career-high totals in goals (30) and points (51) this season.
Hancock’s second goal of the game put London their second lead of the game with just under five minutes remaining in the second period of play. The London center beat Prosvetov’s glove with a backhand in the slot.
The Spirit led, 29-27 in the shot department but trailed by one heading into the second intermission.
London took a two-goal lead just over four minutes into the final frame off a redirection by Canton, Michigan native Paul Cotter. Cotter, a Vegas Golden Knights fourth round pick, tipped a Joey Keane shot from the point.
Keane, draft pick of the New York Rangers, collected his second assist of the game on the Cotter goal.
The Knights added an empty-net goal with just over two minutes remaining in the third period. Left-winger Nathan Dunkley gave London a 5-2 lead with his 23rd goal of the season.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
1. Kevin Hancock (LDN) 2G
2. Cole Perfetti (SAG) G
3. D.J. Busdeker (SAG) G
The 2018-19 Saginaw Spirit regular season comes to an end with a road game against the West Division rival Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Sunday, March 17 at 2:07 p.m. The Spirit are 4-2-1-0 this season against the Greyhounds. Saginaw dropped their last game against the Soo, 2-1 in overtime.
Fans can follow all the action on the flagship WSGW 100.5 FM Talk and Sports and fmtalk1005.com with Joey Battaino and Dennis Desrosiers on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop for all your pregame coverage.
Fans can watch the game live from the Saginaw Spirit “Watch Party” from the 2690 Tittabawassee Road Buffalo Wild Wings location.
The Spirit take on the Sarnia Sting in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Game one is on Thursday, March 21 with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. Saginaw was 3-2-0-1 against the Sarnia Sting during the regular season.
To purchase tickets to any Saginaw Spirit home game call (989) 497-7747, visit saginawspirit.com, or by visiting the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw, MI.