Guelph, ON – The Saginaw Spirit took Game Four of the Western Conference Championship Series, 4-1 on the road Wednesday evening. Saginaw leads the series, 3-1 and needs just one victory to capture the Wayne Gretzky Trophy and a spot in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Championship Series.
Rookie goaltender Tristan Lennox stopped 36 of Guelph’s 37 shots en-route to his second career OHL playoff victory.
OHL post-season plus/minus leader Reagan O’Grady collected first-star honors with a goal and assist in Game Four.
Saginaw rookie Cole Perfetti added two-goals in Wednesday’s victory to give the left-winger eight goals through these playoffs.
2017 Florida Panthers 10th overall pick Owen Tippett was given Game Four’s third-star with the game-winning goal in the second period.
The Spirit can close out the Guelph Storm in Game Five on Friday, April 26 at The Dow Event Center.
16-year old Lennox was run into after Cedric Ralph lost an edge within two minutes into the first period after the rookie goaltender denied Montreal Canadiens signee Nick Suzuki on a three-on-two rush.
Lennox shook off the collision and remained in the game early in the first period. Guelph captain Isaac Ratcliffe tested the rookie Spirit net-minder the next shift on a rush into the Saginaw zone. The Philadelphia Flyers second-rounder took a wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle that Lennox deflected into the corner.
The Spirit struck first early in Game four with overager O’Grady’s third goal of the post-season. After Spirit captain Damien Giroux cleanly won an offensive zone face-off back to the Saginaw defenseman. O’Grady shifted toward the middle of the ice and unleashed a wrist shot through traffic that beat Guelph net-minder Anthony Popovic.
The defenseman from Lindsay, Ontario leads the OHL this post-season with a plus/minus of plus-20.
Giroux, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, has 11 points for the Spirit in this season’s playoffs.
Guelph nearly tied the game after a Saginaw turnover in the neutral zone just over a minute after the O’Grady goal. St. Louis Blues draft pick Alexey Toropchenko skated into the Spirit zone and took a wrist shot from the top of the slot that Lennox stoned with a nice pad save.
The Spirit was outshot, 10-8 by the Storm but Saginaw still took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Saginaw rookie Camaryn Baber nearly gave the Spirit a two-goal lead four minutes into the second period. Forward Danny Katic found the Spirit center to the right of the crease, but Baber’s sharp-angle shot was denied by Popovich.
While the Spirit was on a man-power disadvantage, Lennox made a huge pad save on Arizona Coyotes third round pick Nate Schnarr’s wrist shot from the Saginaw slot.
As a Spirit man-power advantage expired, 2018 Florida Panthers 10th overall pick Owen Tippett scored his 11th goal of this year’s playoffs.
O’Grady slid a point-to-point pass over to the Saginaw right-winger and Tippett hammered a slap shot by goaltender Popovich’s glove to give the Spirit a two-goal lead.
Saginaw Spirit first round pick Cole Perfetti notched his seventh goal of the post-season to give the Spirit a three-goal advantage. Overager Albert Michnac made a nice pass to find the Saginaw left-winger in the Storm slot. The rookie Perfetti made a nice move on Popovich and snapped a shot into the net for the goal.
After two periods of play, the Spirit took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.
With New York Islanders prospect Blade Jenkins in the penalty box, Guelph defenseman Dmitri Samorukov notched his fifth goal of the post-season. Samorukov sent a wrist shot from the point through several players that beat Lennox to cut the Saginaw lead to two goals.
The London, Ontario native Nick Suzuki extended his point streak to nine games with an assist on Guelph’s goal.
Suzuki nearly made it a one-goal game just under minute after the Samorukov goal on an odd-man rush. The former Owen Sound Attack deked around a Saginaw defender but was unable to beat Lennox with a wrist shot.
Saginaw regained the three-goal lead with Perfetti’s second goal of the game just over 8 minutes left in regulation. After a Guelph defenseman coughed up the puck to the Saginaw rookie in the slot, Perfetti patiently flipped the puck over Popovich’s pad for his eighth goal of the post-season.
In the final few minutes of regulation Lennox made several big saves to keep the Spirit up three goals. Dallas Stars draft pick Liam Hawel and Zachary Roberts was stoned by the Saginaw goaltender with the Guelph net empty.
Saginaw defeats Guelph, 4-1 in Game Four to take a 3-1 Western Conference Championship series lead.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Reagan O’Grady (SAG) G, A +2
- Cole Perfetti (SAG) 2G, +1
- Owen Tippett (SAG) G, A +2
The battle for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy heads back to Saginaw Friday, April 26 for Game Five of the Western Conference Finals. The Spirit has an opportunity to close out the Storm at home in Game Five. Puck drop from The Wendler Arena inside The Dow Event Center is set for 7:05 p.m.
Fans can follow all the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 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.
Tickets for Game Five are available on saginawspirit.com, ticketmaster.com, and at the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street in Saginaw.