Saginaw, MI – The Saginaw Spirit dropped their home opener, 4-1 against the in-state rival Flint Firebirds Saturday evening in front of 4,125 fans at The Dow Event Center. It is Saginaw’s first loss in regulation to the Firebirds since February 26, 2017.
The Spirit nearly opened the scoring in the first minute of the game on a rush by New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey. 2020 NHL Draft top prospect Cole Perfetti set up Coskey in the Firebirds end. The Zion, Illinois native’s low wrist shot was denied by Flint goaltender Anthony Popovich’s pad.
Coskey had another opportunity early in the first period to break the scoreless tie on a breakaway. The Saginaw left-winger snuck behind the Firebird defense and took a heavy wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle that was deflected by Popovich’s blocker.
Saginaw broke the tie with just under five minutes remaining in the opening period. 2019 Saginaw Spirit first round Import Draft choice Ilya Solovyov slid a nice pass Camaryn Baber in the neutral zone. Baber sent a pass to Coskey and the New York Islanders prospect sniped a shot into the top corner for his second of the season.
Solovyov has three assists in his first two OHLr games. The Belarusian defenseman dished out two helpers in the season opener overtime loss to the Kitchener Rangers.
The Firebirds answered in the waning moments of the first period with overager Jake Durham’s second of the season. The Port Perry, Ontario native made a nice individual effort around a Saginaw defender and lifted a shot over the Spirit goaltender Tristan Lennox’s glove for the goal.
Durham, a former Hamilton Bulldogs seventh round draft choice, led the Firebirds with 35 goals last season.
The teams were tied, 1-1 after the first 20 minutes of play despite the 15-7 shot advantage for the Spirit.
After a pair of penalties called the teams skated four-on-four the Firebirds took the lead for the first time in the game. Durham notched his second of the game on a give-and-go, two-on-one rush with Connor Roberts.
Midway through the second frame Lennox and the rest of the Saginaw short handed unit killed off a four-on-three turned five-on-three man-power advantage for the Firebirds. Overager Reilly Webb and Saginaw Spirit alternate captain D.J. Busdeker each blocked crucial shots to keep the Spirit within a goal.
Saginaw had an opportunity to even up the score with just under five minutes left in the second period. Solovyov made a nice play to open a passing lane to the left of the Firebirds net but the pass hopped over Danny Katic’s stick and into the corner.
The Spirit doubled the Firebirds shot total but trailed Flint, 2-1 after two periods of play. Seven penalties were called during the second frame between the two teams.
Saginaw netminder Tristan Lennox had to be sharp early after the Spirit turned the puck over to Flint’s Evan Vierling in front of the Saginaw net. Lennox cut the angle down and denied the 2018 Flint Firebirds first round pick.
Flint added to their lead at 5:54 of the third period with 2019 Flint Firebirds second overall pick Brennan Othmann’s first career OHL goal. Vierling found the rookie to the right of the Spirit net and Othmann connected on the back door one-timer.
Saginaw nearly cut into the Flint lead with just over five minutes left in regulation. A Solovyov shot ricocheted to Dallas Stars draft choice Nicholas Porco who lifted a shot that hit the crossbar and stayed out of the Flint net.
With the Saginaw net empty, Jake Durham completed the hat trick with nine seconds left in regulation for the 4-1 Firebirds victory.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Jake Durham (FLNT) 3G, +3
- Cole Coskey (SAG) G
- Brennan Othmann (FLNT) G
The Spirit head to Sarnia, Ontario to take on the West Division rival, Sarnia Sting in a rematch of last season’s opening playoff round. Puck drop between the heated West Division rivals begins at 7:05 p.m from the Progressive Auto Zone Arena.
Fans can follow 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 for all your pregame coverage.
Saginaw returns home Saturday, September 28 as they bring in the West Division rival Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to The Dow Event Center.
The game marks the return of Opioid Awareness Night at The Dow including Medication Take Back Event for patrons to return unused medications. lucky fans will receive a 2019 Spirit Magnet Schedule presented by Coors Light and Go Great Lakes.
To purchase tickets to any Spirit home game call (989) 497-7747, visit www.saginawspirit.com, or visit the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw, MI.