Saginaw, MI. – The Saginaw Spirit inched closer to the Western Conference lead, after a dominant 8-2 victory against the Kitchener Rangers Saturday evening to entertain 4,025 fans on Ice Blast Weekend’s Credit Union Night at The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan.
2020 NHL Draft top prospect Cole Perfetti became the quickest player in Saginaw Spirit history to reach 100 career assists in the victory.
Saginaw Spirit goaltender Marshall Frappier was tested by the Kitchener Rangers just under four minutes into play from Kitchener leading goal scorer Jonathan Yantsis. The puck squeaked back to Arizona Coyotes prospect Axel Bergkvist at the Saginaw point, where the Kitchener defenseman snapped a shot. The overager Yantsis redirected the shot towards towards the goal that Frappier denied with a pad save to keep the game scoreless.
Philadelphia Flyers prospect Mason Millman nearly put the Spirit on the board six minutes into play off a three-on-two rush. Belarusian defenseman Ilya Solovyov hit the Kitchener zone with speed and slid a pass over to Millman, who flew down the right-wing. The Saginaw defenseman fired a wrist shot from the left face-off dot that was fought off by a Los Angeles Kings signee Jacob Ingham pad save.
After a slashing penalty to Jackson, Michigan native Blade Jenkins expired, the New York Islanders prospect nearly opened the scoring on a two-on-one rush. As the Saginaw forward entered play, Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Suzuki had flown up ice. With Jenkins joining the rush, Suzuki dropped a pass to Jenkins at the top of the left circle, who fired a wrist shot that was stopped by a blocker save from Ingham just over nine minutes into the first period.
The Kitchener goaltender Ingham was tested again just past the midway point of the first frame with two Saginaw Spirit chances. New York Islanders second round pick Bode Wilde hammered a slapshot from the point that was redirected by Minnesota Wild prospect Damien Giroux that Ingham stopped with a pad save. The puck rebounded left, where New York Islanders draft pick Cole Coskey quickly fired a shot towards the Kitchener net. Ingham slid across the crease to just get a pad on the puck to make the desperation save and cover up the puck.
Both goaltenders stood tall, going into the first intermission scoreless. Saginaw doubled up the Rangers in the shot department through the first 20 minutes of play, 12-6.
After defenseman D.J. King was called for a holding minor, Saginaw captain Giroux opened the scoring with his team-leading 34th goal of the season. Saginaw added to their league-leading total of 14 shorthanded goals on the Minnesota Wild prospect’s effort.
Giroux grabbed the loose puck in the Saginaw zone and attacked up ice with overager D.J. Busdeker. The Hanmer, Ontario native entered the Kitchener zone and cut into the slot to fire a shot. Ingham made the initial pad save, but Busdeker controlled the puck and sent a pass to the left of the Rangers crease. Giroux fired a one-timer over the outstretched pad of Ingham to give the Spirit the 1-0 lead 1:43 into the second frame.
New York Islanders fifth round selection Blade Jenkins extended the Saginaw lead to 2-0 on his 10th goal of the season 8:32 into the second period. Suzuki entered the Kitchener zone and fired a pass over to Busdeker, who skated up the right-wing. Busdeker centered a pass that Jenkins, who crashed the Kitchener net and redirected the puck into the net to make it 2-0 Saginaw.
Kitchener cut into the Saginaw lead just 1:09 later with right-winger Graham Dickerson’s second goal of the season, both coming against the Spirit. Defenseman Arbor Xhekaj kept the puck in the Spirit zone and took a wrist shot from the left-point that Dickerson tipped up past Frappier’s pad into the net to make it a 2-1 Spirit lead.
After Jonathan Yantsis was penalized with a tripping minor, Saginaw regained the two-goal lead on a power play tally for Ryan Suzuki’s 14th goal of the season. At center-point Bode Wilde teed up fellow New York Islanders draft pick Cole Coskey for a one-timer from the left circle. Ingham made the save, but the puck was loose in the Kitchener crease and Suzuki poked it into the net for a 3-1 advantage.
Saginaw exploded late in the second period with a run of three goals in just 1:12 that was sparked by Cole Perfetti’s 34th goal of the season. After Damien Giroux entered the Rangers zone and cut towards the center of the rink at the top of the right circle. Giroux dropped a pass to Perfetti, and the Saginaw forward used a hesitation move on Ingham and fired a wrist shot short side from the right face-off dot to extend Saginaw’s lead.
Perfetti tied Ottawa’s Marco Rossi for the OHL’s point lead (97) after he added an assist just under a minute later on a powerplay goal from Coskey. Perfetti controlled the puck in the right-circle and sent a cross-ice pass for Coskey to one-time into the open left-side of the net for his 30th goal of the season.
Just 15 seconds later, Grand Blanc, Michigan native Dalton Duhart notched the sixth second period goal of the Spirit with just 12 seconds left in the middle frame. A shot from Spirit rookie T-Bone Codd rebounded right to Duhart, who circled behind the net and completed a wrap-around goal for his 10th of the season.
Saginaw took a 6-1 lead into the second intermission after they outshot Kitchener, 29-15. It was the second time this season that the Spirit had scored six goals in a second period. On Oct. 18, 2019, the Spirit scored six goals on 12 shots against the North Bay Battalion.
Just 3:05 into the final frame, Blade Jenkins notched his second of the game to put the Spirit ahead six goals. Saginaw’s offensive zone pressure caused a Kitchener give-away in the Rangers slot, where forward Danny Katic dropped a pass through his legs to Jenkins for a wrist shot into the open net.
Florida Panthers 2018 second round pick Serron Noel cut the Saginaw lead back to five goals 5:22 into the third period on his 15th goal of the season. Rookie forward Francesco Pinelli controlled the puck in the left corner and centered the puck into the Saginaw slot. The Ottawa, Ontario native Noel redirected the pass into the Saginaw net to make it a 7-2 advantage.
Saginaw rookie Josh Bloom added his fourth goal of the season with 7:54 left in regulation to give Saginaw the eventual 8-2 victory. Duhart collected his second point of the game after he centered a pass for Bloom to one-time at the top of the Rangers slot.
Marshall Frappier stopped 24 of Kitchener’s 26 shots-on-goal to collect his 19th win of the season.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Cole Perfetti (SAG) G, A +1
- Blade Jenkins (SAG) 2G, +1
- Bode Wilde (SAG) 2A
Carolina Hurricanes signee Ryan Suzuki makes his return to his former club when he and the Saginaw Spirit travel to take on the Barrie Colts Thursday, February 20 to begin a three-game road swing against Central Division foes. Puck drop from the Colts Centre in Barrie, Ontario begins at 7:30 p.m.
Fans can catch all the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and www.wsgw.com with the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.
Fans can visit the Buffalo Wild Wings location at 2690 Tittabawassee Road in Saginaw and join the official “Watch Party” for all Spirit away games. Admission is free of charge.
The Spirit return home Friday, February 28 to host the OHL’s rookie scoring leader Shane Wright and the Kingston Frontenacs for the second and final meeting of the season. Puck drop from the Wendler Arena inside The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan begins at 7:05 p.m.
To purchase tickets to any Saginaw Spirit home game call (989) 497-7747, visit www.saginawspirit.com, or visit the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw MI.