Flint, MI – The Saginaw Spirit took a hard-fought 5-3 loss to the Flint Firebirds Wednesday at The Dort Financial Center in Flint, Michigan. With only 15 skaters, the Spirit pushed the Firebirds all the way until the end, but could not tie the game late in the third period. 2022 NHL Draft eligibles Pavel Minkyukov and Matyas Sapovaliv led the way for the Spirit, each scoring two points. Gavin Hayes tallied two goals for the Firebirds. The regulation loss for Saginaw was their first in Flint since Nov. 23, 2016. Nearly five years to the days, 1,827 days ago.
The Firebirds grabbed the lead at 2:22 of the opening period on the first OHL goal for Hayes. Veteran Riley Piercey drew the only assist as the two of them broke in past the Spirit defense for a two-on-none break on Andrew Oke. The Spirit perked up after the goal, but took a penalty at 11:55. Matyas Sapovaliv scored the Spirit’s league-leading seventh shorthanded goal at 12:59 to tie the game 1-1. The Firebirds answered at 18:04, when Ethan Hay deflected a pass from Dmitri Kuzmin past Oke. The ‘Birds led 2-1 after 20 minutes despite the Spirit outshooting them 12-6 in the opening frame.
At 8:36 of the middle period, Sahil Panwar went streaking down the right side and roofed a backhanded shot over the left shoulder of Andrew Oke to give Flint the 3-1 advantage. Panwar’s third goal of the season was his second against the Spirit. While the Spirit maintained possession of the puck for long stretches, it was Pavel Mintyukov who brought the Spirit back within one goal on a one-time from the right circle. Sebastien Gervais and Brayden Hislop assisted on the Mintyukov goal. Just 47 seconds later, the Firebirds went back up by two goals on Hayes’ second goal of the game. Flint led 4-2 after two periods.
The Spirit were able to take advantage of a late second period penalty by Flint, and Sapovaliv scored his second goal of the game at 1:04 of the third period to make it 4-3. Josh Bloom and Mintyukov assisted on the rebound goal for Sapovaliv from in front of the Flint goal. The Spirit continued to press throughout the third period, but Cavallin was equal to the task. It appeared the Spirit would get a power play late in the game, when Flint cleared the puck over the glass in their own zone, but after discussion, it was ruled to be deflected and therefore, not a penalty. Zacharie Giroux added an empty net goal for the Firebirds with 1:12 left to give them a 6-4 lead. Saginaw could not come any closer, and fell by that same score.
The Spirit head to the WFCU Centre Friday to take on the Windsor Spitfires. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Fans can catch the TV broadcast of tonight’s game live at Buffalo Wild Wings of Saginaw located at 2690 Tittabawassee Road. Buffalo Wild Wings is the official road game watch party host of the Saginaw Spirit. This and every game this season will also be broadcast live on the home for Spirit Hockey on the radio, 100.5 WSGW-FM and wsgw.com with the voices of Spirit Hockey, Joey Battaino and Dennis Desrosiers.
The Spirit return to The Dow Event Center Saturday, Nov. 27 facing the Windsor Spitfires for ‘Light the Night’ supporting Leukemia and Lymphoma awareness. For tickets, visit www.saginawspirit.com