Smith’s OT winner sends Spirit past Rangers, 4-3

By Matthew Wesolowski

Kitchener, Ont. – The Saginaw Spirit (35-24-3-2) won 4-3 over the Kitchener Rangers (30-28-5-0) Friday, March 17, at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

Four Saginaw skaters scored a goal, including Mitchell Smith who scored the game winning goal and earned an assist. Andrew Oke earned a win for the Spirit by stopping 42 of 45 shots faced. Francesco Arcuri netted a goal and two assists while Marco Costantini stopped 33 of 37 shots for Kitchener.

Through the first 30 minutes of the game, both teams stayed out of the penalty box and the goaltenders stood strong in net. Towards the middle of the second period, Kitchener went down a skater after Ty Hollett committed a cross checking penalty at 8:32.

Saginaw capitalized on the chance with a powerplay goal at 10:20 of the second period. Zayne Parekh received a pass from Sebastien Gervais in Kitchener’s zone. The defenseman sent a pass through traffic to Michael Misa for his 22nd of the season.

The Rangers responded by tying the game at 12:01 in the second frame. Justin Bottineau netted his first OHL goal after he sent a backhanded shot over Oke’s glove.

The Spirit got into penalty trouble after James Guo went to the box for roughing at 13:09 and PJ Forgione was called for high sticking at 13:52 in the middle period. The Rangers used the power play to take the lead at 14:18. Francesco Arcuri sent a pass to Carson Rehkopf in Saginaw’s zone. Francesco Pinelli received the puck next, and he fired a shot glove-side for his 38th of the season.

Saginaw was caught with too many men at 16:10 in the middle frame. Kitchener could not add to their lead on the chance.

Just before the period ended, the Spirit went on the man-advantage after Ty Hollett hit Zayne Parekh from behind at 19:08. Saginaw was held scoreless on the power play.

At the end of the second period, the Rangers held a 31-15 shot advantage along with a 2-1 lead of the game.

The third period began with Saginaw tying the game up at two apiece at 5:01. Theo Hill took a shot at Costantini and the goaltender turned it aside. Luke McNamara recovered the rebound and potted his eighth of the season.

Lleyton Moore went to the box for cross checking at 12:47 in the third frame, giving the Spirit a man-advantage. Joey Willis got Mitchell Smith the puck at the point and the captain fired a shot. Matyas Sapovaliv deflected the puck past Costantini for his team-leading 26th goal of the season.

Kitchener answered back with a goal at 14:13 in the final period. Danny Zhilkin gave the puck to Francesco Arcuri in the neutral zone. The forward skated in and rifled a shot past Oke’s blocker and off the post behind him to make it three apiece.

Neither team scored before time expired and the game headed to overtime. At the end of regulation, both teams were tied at three despite a 43-34 shot lead for the Rangers.

In overtime, it was Saginaw’s Mitchell Smith who scored the game winner. The captain sent a shot under Costantini’s arm to win it 4-3. With the win, Saginaw improves to 35-24-3-2 on the season- and has points in seven straight games.

Saginaw returns home as they host the Hamilton Bulldogs Saturday, March 18, at the Dow Event Center. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. and tickets are available at Ticketmaster, the Saginaw Spirit Store (6321 State Street), Dow Event Center Box Office, and by phone at (989) 497-7747.

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