By Matthew Wesolowski
Saginaw, Mich. – The Saginaw Spirit (24-13-2-0) were defeated 5-4 by their division rivals the Windsor Spitfires (25-9-3-1) on Saturday, January 14, at the Dow Event Center.
Hunter Haight and Mitchell Smith each earned two assists and Andrew Oke made 36 saves on 40 shots for Saginaw. Brett Harrison and Liam Greentree both scored a goal and an assist, and Joey Costanzo stopped 30 of 33 for Windsor.
The game opened with the Spitfires netting the first goal 88 seconds in. Michael Renwick received the puck off the faceoff and passed to Jacob Holmes who was at the top of the zone. From there, the Dallas Stars draft pick shot at Oke but the puck hit the post. The goaltender was unable to find the puck as Liam Greentree pushed it into the net for his 13th goal of the season.
Windsor increased their lead at 3:21 in the opening period. Alex Christopoulos started the chance by getting Jacob Maillet the puck. The center created a two-on-one chance by skating in and set up a one-timer chance after he passed to Oliver Peer on his left to make the game 2-0.
PJ Forgione was called for holding at 13:46 in the first period, giving the Spitfires their first powerplay of the game. The chance was cut short after Rodwin Dionicio took a tripping penalty at 14:38. Once Saginaw’s penalty expired, the Spirit were able to swing momentum in their favor and net their first goal of the game at 16:00. Mitchell Smith started the chance by recovering the puck in his zone and passing to Dean Loukus. The forward then handed Michael Misa the puck and he flew into the zone and put in a wrap-around shot before Costanzo could get to the post for his team-leading 20th goal of the season.
Saginaw was caught with too many men on the ice at 18:56 in the first frame, giving the Spitfires a man-advantage. The penalty continued into the second period.
At the end of the first period, the Spitfires had a 18-8 shot advantage as well as a 2-1 lead of the game.
The second period started with Windsor converting on the powerplay from the previous period just 30 seconds in. Matthew Maggio started the play off with a quick pass to Brett Harrison. The Boston Bruins draft pick immediately gave Shane Wright the puck on the right of the zone where he sent a shot past Oke’s glove for his second goal in two games.
Saginaw answered back a few minutes later with a goal of their own at 6:48 in the middle period. Hunter Haight gave PJ Forgione and he skated around the back of the net. After emerging on the other side, he found Roberto Mancini at the top of the circles where the defensemen ripped a shot past Costanzo to make it 3-2.
Windsor got their fourth goal of the season at 10:57 in the second frame after Noah Morneau recovered a puck that bounced off the boards and snuck a shot past Oke’s blocker. Liam Greentree dumped the puck into the zone to set up the shot, and Daniil Sobolev earned an assist on the play.
James Guo was tripped by Rodwin Dionicio late in the middle frame, giving Saginaw a man-advantage. The Spirit could not find a way past Costanzo on the chance.
Windsor upped their lead to 4-2 at the end of the second period and held a 24-20 shot advantage over Saginaw.
The third period opened with pressure from Windsor but Oke standing strong with several saves throughout the first eight minutes. The Spitfires earned a penalty shot after Olivier Savard threw his stick toward the puck after a turnover. Matthew Maggio tried deke around Oke, but the goaltender slid over to make the save.
Saginaw closed the gap to one with a goal at 11:34 in the final period. Zayne Parekh skated in from the right side and pushed the puck under Costanzo’s left pad for his 12th goal of the season. Mitchell Smith and Hunter Haight both earned assists on the play.
With time running out, Oke was called to the bench for an extra attacker. The Spitfires used the chance to score an empty netter. Brett Harrison scored the goal and Anthony Chrisforo and Rodwin Dionicio earned assists on the play.
The game ended in a 5-3 Windsor victory, their third straight win over the Spirit. Saginaw fell to 24-13-2-0 with the loss.
Saginaw takes to the ice again Sunday, January 15, as they host the Kitchener Rangers at the Dow Event Center. Puck drop is at 5:30 and tickets are available at Ticketmaster, the Saginaw Spirit Store (6321 State Street), Dow Event Center Box Office, and by phone at (989) 497-7747. Join the Spirit players on the ice after the game for the final postgame skate of the season.