Flint, MI. – The Saginaw Spirit pulled ahead in this year’s I-75 Divide Rivalry with a 5-4 victory over the in-state rival Flint Firebirds on the road Friday night. Saginaw pulled ahead of the West Division standings with 38 points this season.
New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey set the team record with 271 regular season games played in Saginaw Spirit team-history.
Saginaw Spirit goaltender Marshall Frappier was tested in the opening shift of the game when 2019 Flint Firebirds first round pick Brennan Othmann cut between the Spirit defense and received a pass into the Saginaw zone. The Flint rookie took a wrist shot from the right face-off dot that was deflected into the corner off Frappier’s glove.
Saginaw Spirit captain Damien Giroux opened the scoring just 53 seconds into the period with his team-leading 19th goal of the season. Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker broke into the Flint zone and fired a snapshot from the top of the right circle that bounced off Danny Katic’s skate in front of the crease. The Minnesota Wild prospect Giroux pounced on the loose puck and chipped a shot over Flint goaltender Anthony Popovich for the 1-0 lead.
The Spirit extended their lead just 1:37 later with Camaryn Baber’s fifth goal of the season and second in as many days. The Spirit forward was relentless on the forecheck and took the puck away from defenseman Riley McCourt to the right of the Firebirds crease. Baber was able to jam and poke the puck past Popovich for the 2-0 lead.
After Busdeker was called for an interference penalty, the Firebirds were able to cut into the Saginaw lead 5:04 into the first period. Arizona Coyotes prospect Dennis Busby’s shot from the point rebounded off Frappier’s pad right to Keppen in the slot. Frappier was unable to get back in time and the Flint forward hammered the puck into the open net to bring the Firebirds back to within one goal.
With Flint’s Zacharie Giroux called for a slashing minor, the Spirit regained the two-goal lead at the 9:40 mark of the first period. Top 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti received a pass at the top of the right face-off circle and faked a shot to catch the Flint defender off guard. Perfetti cut towards center ice and ripped a wrist shot past Popovich’s glove for his 16th goal of the season.
Just before the first period expired the Firebirds Othmann again cut the Saginaw lead back to one-goal. Connor Roberts flipped a shot towards the Spirit net, where Othmann batted the puck out of midair past the Saginaw netminder for his sixth goal of the season.
Saginaw outshot Flint 15-14 in the first period and took a 3-2 lead into the intermission.
Saginaw goaltender Frappier came up big early in the second period after forward Jake Durham walked around a Spirit defender on a rush into the Saginaw zone. Durham, who led the Firebirds last season with 35 goals, attempted a deke and tried to slip the puck into the net but Frappier squeezed his pads together and kept the puck out.
Saginaw’s Danny Katic found twine for the fifth time this season to put the Spirit back up two goals 12:25 into the second period. The Spirit forward hit New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey with a pass at the top of the circle and drove to the Flint net. Coskey fired a shot at the Flint netminder that rebounded to the right of the crease where Katic slapped over a diving Popovich for the 4-2 lead.
Flint got back into the game with 4:45 left in the second frame on Durham’s 14th goal of the season. Right-winger Connor Roberts fought for the puck behind the Spirit net and passed the puck to the left of the Saginaw goal. Durham one-timed the pass over Frappier’s right shoulder to cut the Saginaw lead down to 4-3.
The Firebirds tied the game at 4-4 with 2:08 left in the middle frame on a two-on-one rush in the Saginaw zone. At the Saginaw Spirit left half-wall, Brennan Othmann sent a cross ice pass for Jack Phibbs to one-time along the ice past a sliding Spirit goaltender for his ninth goal of the season.
The Spirit outshot Flint 27-25 through two periods but the teams were knotted up 4-4 after 40 minutes of play.
Flint nearly took the lead early in the final frame in a scramble in the Saginaw zone. Cody Morgan gained control of the puck along the right-wing boards and centered a pass to Keppen in the slot. Keppen had a wide-open net but before he could get ahold of the puck Cole Perfetti lifted the left-winger’s stick to save a goal for the Saginaw Spirit.
With just 38 seconds left in regulation, Cole Coskey notched his 16th goal of the season to put the Spirit up 5-4. Perfetti stickhandled through the middle of the Flint zone down to the left circle and sent a pass to the slot. Coskey one-timed the puck into the wide-open Firebirds net for the eventual Saginaw Spirit victory.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Cole Coskey (SAG) GWG, A
- Brennan Othmann (FLNT) G, 2A
- Cole Perfetti (SAG) G, A
The Saginaw Spirit finish up the home-and-home series Saturday, December 14 when they host the in-state rival Flint Firebirds for the annual Teddy Bear Toss Night at The Dow Event Center presented by the Jayden Lamb Foundation. Puck Drop for the fourth of eight regular season meetings begins at 7:05 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to bring their teddy bears to the arena and throw them onto the ice after the Spirit’s first goal is scored. All plush toys will be collected and donated to families and children affected by pediatric cancer.
Fans can catch this weekend’s action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and www.wsgw.com with Art Lewis and the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” with host Charley Porter begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.
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.