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Western Conference Final Preview: Spirit, Storm begin battle for Wayne Gretzky Trophy in Saginaw

Saginaw, MI – The Western Conference Finals begins Thursday, April 18 when the Saginaw Spirit hosts the Guelph Storm.  It is the first time in team-history that the Spirit will compete in the Western Conference Championship series.  Puck drop for Game One is set for 7:05 p.m. from The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

The second-seeded Saginaw Spirit is coming off a 4-2 series victory over the third-seed Soo Greyhounds with a 5-0 shutout on the road in Game Six.  The Spirit have already set the team-high post-season win mark in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Guelph became the fifth team in Ontario Hockey League (OHL) history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.  After they suffered three-straight defeats, the Storm rattled off four-straight victories over the top-seeded London Knights.

The Spirit finished the regular season 2-1-1-0 against the Storm and with each team winning one game on the road.

Tickets for Game One are on sale now on saginawspirit.com, ticketmaster.com, at the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street in Saginaw, and at The Dow Event Center Box Office.

Watch live on OHLLive.com or listen live on the flagship 100.5 FM Newsradio WSGW and fmtalk1005.com with the voice of the Saginaw Spirit Joey Battaino and Dennis Desrosiers on the call.  “Countdown to Faceoff” with host Domenic Papa starts 15 minutes prior to puck drop.

Each game in this series from Saginaw will be broadcast live on Rogers TV 20 locally in Guelph and across Ontario on the OHL Action Pak, which is a service provided through the Rogers Super Sports Pak.

The top-ranked Spirit Penalty Kill has been dominant in the post-season.  Saginaw has killed 36 of the 38 man-power disadvantages faced through 10 post-season games this year.  Saginaw leads the all OHL teams with four short-handed goals in these 2019 OHL Playoffs.

2018 Arizona Coyotes fourth round draft pick Ivan Prosvetov notched his first career OHL playoff shutout on 34-saves in Game Six against the Soo Greyhounds.  The Moscow, Russia native is second among active playoff goalies with a .932 save percentage.

Five different players scored goals for the Saginaw Spirit in their Game Six victory over the Soo Greyhounds.

2019 NHL Draft prospect Nicholas Porco scored what proved to be the series game-winning goal in Game Six.  The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native contributed three goals and three assists in the round against the team he grew up cheering for.

2017 Florida Panthers first round pick Owen Tippett leads the Spirit in both goals (9) and points (17), this post-season.  The Saginaw right-winger started the post-season on a seven-game goal streak, which is the longest streak so far in this OHL Playoffs.

New York Islanders second-rounder Bode Wilde is second among OHL defensemen with six goals this post-season.  The Plymouth, Michigan native defenseman is tied with rookie Cole Perfetti for first on the Spirit with two power play goals through this season’s playoffs.

Perfetti, the 2018 Saginaw Spirit first round pick, has three goals his first taste of OHL post-season hockey.  The former University of Michigan commit is tied for the league-lead with three game-winning-goals this post-season.

Detroit Red Wings prospect Brady Gilmour has been excellent throughout his OHL career in the playoffs.  In Gilmour’s 14 career post-season games, the Saginaw forward has three goals and 12 assists for 15 points.  The Grafton, Ontario native leads all Saginaw players with 10 assists in this post-season.

2018 Edmonton Oilers second round pick Ryan McLeod is tied for first in the OHL with a plus/minus of plus-13 in this year’s playoffs.  The Saginaw center has averaged a point per game in the 10 Saginaw Spirit post-season games.

Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki has been on fire in the last five Guelph playoff games.  The former 2017 Vegas Golden Knights 13th overall pick has six goals and seven assists in his current five-game point streak.  Guelph acquired Suzuki before this season’s trade deadline from the Owen Sound Attack.

Philadelphia Flyers signee Isaac Ratcliff had two goals, including the game-winner in Game Seven against the London Knights.  The Guelph Storm captain has at least a point in the last three post-season games.  Ratcliff, a 2017 second round pick of the Flyers, led the Storm in the regular season with 50 goals.

Guelph goaltender Anthony Popovich was great for the Storm in the second-round comeback on the Knights.  The Belleville, Ontario native had a .929 save percentage over the last four Guelph victories versus London.

Arizona Coyotes third-rounder Nate Schnarr trails just Suzuki on Guelph with 14 points in these playoffs.  The right-winger led the Storm in both assists (68) and points (102) in the regular season.

Guelph has 11 players with rights owned by NHL teams, forwards Cam Hillis (Montreal Canadiens), Nick Suzuki (Montreal Canadiens-signed), MacKenzie Entwistle (Chicago Blackhawks-signed), Alexey Toropchenko (St. Louis Blues-signed), Liam Hawel (Dallas Stars), Nate Schnarr (Arizona Coyotes-signed), Isaac Ratcliffe (Philadelphia Flyers-signed), defensemen Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers-signed), Sean Durzi (Los Angeles Kings), Markus Phillips (Los Angeles Kings), and Fedor Gordeev (Toronto Maple Leafs.)

The Spirit also boasts eight players drafted by NHL clubs, forwards Brady Gilmour (Detroit Red Wings), Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders), Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers-signed), Ryan McLeod (Edmonton Oilers), Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild), defensemen Reilly Webb (Detroit Red Wings), Bode Wilde (New York Islanders-signed), and goaltender Ivan Prosvetov (Arizona Coyotes).

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