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Recap: Spirit dominate Firebirds to even Coors Light I-75 Divide series

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Flint, MI. – The Saginaw Spirit takes the second game of this season’s Coors Light I-75 Divide Rivalry in an 8-3 decision on the road over the in-state rival Flint Firebirds in front of 3,544 fans at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, Michigan Wednesday night.

Saginaw goaltender Tristan Lennox was tested early with defenseman Ilya Solovyov in the penalty box with a holding penalty.  Flint leading scorer Evgeniy Oksentyuk took a wrist shot from the left face-off circle that was fought off by Lennox’s blocker.  Overager Jake Durham collected a rebound and fired a snapshot that was blocked by the Saginaw goaltender’s pads.

Grand Blanc, Michigan native Dalton Duhart opened the scoring 5:28 into the first period with his second goal of the season.  Duhart was given a pass on the boards and came down on a breakaway.  The Spirit forward sniped a wrist shot over Flint goaltender Anthony Popovich’s left shoulder for the goal.

The Firebirds answered just 58 seconds later with Oksentyuk’s 13th goal of the season.  Defenseman Riley McCourt skated into the Spirit zone on a breakaway and attempted a deke that was denied by Lennox but the Belarusian forward Oksentyuk followed the play and fired the rebound into the open Saginaw net.

Flint took the lead 10:15 into the first period on a breakaway by center Connor Roberts.  The Flint forward got behind the Saginaw defense and skated down on a breakaway.  Roberts fought off a Saginaw backcheck and slapped the puck into the Spirit net while he was hauled down from behind to make it a 2-1 Firebirds lead.

After Flint’s Jack Phibbs was called for blindsiding just past the midway point of the period, Saginaw Spirit captain Damien Giroux tied the game 2-2 with his 15th goal of the season and eighth on the man-power advantage.  Philadelphia Flyers prospect Mason Millman sent a pass over to Giroux at the top of the right face-off circle.  The Minnesota Wild prospect patiently waited for a screen in front of the net and sent a wrist shot that beat Popovich blocker side.

Saginaw regained the lead with 4:55 left in the first period on Solovyov’s third goal of the season.  2019 Saginaw Spirit second round pick Josh Bloom dropped a pass in the slot to the Belarusian defenseman in the Flint slot.  Popovich over committed to the right and Solovyov snapped a shot into the open left side of the net for the 3-2 lead.

Saginaw took the 3-2 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 20-6 in the first period of play.

Saginaw netminder Lennox kept Saginaw on top early in the second period on a Flint two-on-none rush.  Oksentyuk and Arizona Coyotes prospect Dennis Busby came into the Saginaw zone alone and the Flint forward Oksentyuk tried to deke to the backhand that Lennox poked away with his stick.

As a slashing penalty to Cody Morgan was about to expire, Saginaw forward Jake Goldowski notched his seventh goal of the season to give the Spirit a two-goal lead.  Danny Katic centered the puck to Goldowski at the top of the Firebirds slot and the Thornhurst, Pennsylvania native sniped a wrist shot top shelf 5:20 into the second period.

Flint cut into the Spirit lead 13:35 into the second period on Flint left-winger Emmet Pierce’s first goal of the season.  After a high hit by Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea on Perfetti, Flint came down on a three-on-two rush. Dellandrea’s initial shot was stopped by Lennox but Pierce followed the play and hammered home the rebound to make the game 4-3 in favor of Saginaw.

Rookie forward ‘T-bone’ Codd put Saginaw back up by two goals on a breakaway with 2:49 remaining in the second period.  Mason Millman sprung the rookie forward on a breakaway with a pass up ice and Codd sped into the Flint zone.  While he protected the puck from a Flint back-checker Codd slid the puck past Popovich for the 5-3 Saginaw lead.

After the goal by Codd, the Firebirds replaced Popovich with goaltender Luke Cavallin.

As Saginaw killed an instigator penalty from defenseman D.J. King, Oksentyuk was called for a major penalty for kicking to have the teams skate four-on-four.

The Spirit took a three-goal lead off of the ensuing face-off on top 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti’s 11th goal of the season.  As Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker skated around the Flint net, he lost control of the puck into the Firebirds slot.  Perfetti collected the puck and snuck a shot into the short side in between Cavallin and the left post for the 6-3 lead. With the goal, Perfetti extended his consecutive game point streak to six games. In those six games, Perfetti has seven goals and four assists. Perfetti has 16 points in his last 11 games, overall.

Saginaw turned the table in the shot department as they outshot Flint 14-7 in the middle frame.

After Ethan Cardwell was called for a double minor high-sticking penalty, Perfetti scored a shorthanded goal for his second of the contest just past the midway point of the third period.  After New York Islanders prospect Blade Jenkins and Perfetti forechecked on the penalty kill the goaltender Cavallin did not cover the puck.  Perfetti took the puck away from the Flint defender and hammered the puck past Cavallin for his 12th goal of the season.

Cardwell extended the Saginaw lead to five goals with 3:25 left in regulation for his seventh of the season.  Perfetti centered the puck to just outside of the Flint crease, where Cardwell redirected the puck into the Flint net out of mid-air for the eventual 8-3 victory.

Saginaw’s man-power advantage got back on track with a three-for-five night after just one powerplay goal in the last three games.

Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Mason Millman (SAG) 3A, +3
  2. Cole Perfetti (SAG) 2G, A
  3. Camaryn Baber (SAG) 2A, +2

The Saginaw Spirit continue the three-game road swing Friday, November 29 when they travel to take on the Midwest Division leading Guelph Storm for the second meeting of the season.  The Spirit lost in a close 2-1 decision against the Storm on the road back on November 16.  It is a 7:30 p.m. puck drop live from the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ontario.

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 Wednesday, December 4 when they matchup against the Guelph Storm in a make up contest for the postponed game due to poor ice conditions back on November 2.  Puck drop from 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.

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