Spirit, Spits battle down to the wire in final game of the regular season

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Saginaw will play the Soo Greyhounds on the road in Round 1 of the OHL Playoffs

Windsor, ON. – On Sunday afternoon, the Saginaw Spirit (29-30-9-0) traveled to Windsor for the final game of the 2017-18 regular season against the Spitfires (32-30-4-2).With a win in regulation, the Spirit would finish in 7th place heading into the OHL Playoffs, but the Spitfires were battling for favorable seeding as well.

In the first period, Windsor seized a powerplay opportunity as Jake Smith sent a laser, his first of two goals, into the Spirit net for a 1-0 lead. The Spitfires doubled their lead 6:17 into the second period off a Nathan Staios wrister, but the Spirit shot back with two goals in just 16 seconds. D.J. Busdeker was responsible for the initial tally, whereas Mason Kohn followed that up with a goal of his own, marking the overager’s 20th of the season. In the third period, both teams exited the locker room with their playoff positioning hanging in the balance in a 2-2 game. The Spirit kept the Spitfires off the scoreboard despite a bevy of chances early on, but Smith would eventually send his empty net shot down the ice for the game-winning goal as Windsor took home a 3-2 victory.

As the first period progressed, the Spirit had several scoring opportunities spread across seven shots but could not light the lamp. Windsor fared a bit better and capitalized on the second of two consecutive powerplay opportunities when Smith connected on a one-timer, establishing a 1-0 Windsor lead with 14:22 expired in the frame. On the play, Michigan native Igor Larionov II zipped a cross-ice pass to Smith, who then flung the puck into the Spirit net. At the period’s conclusion, the Spitfires maintained a 11-7 edge in the shots department.

With 6:17 elapsed in the second period, Windsor added to their lead when Nathan Staios settled the puck in the neutral zone, faked a backhander then whipped a wrist shot glove-side and into the Spirit net. Saginaw responded in the second half of the period, however, when D.J. Busdeker tipped a Duncan Penman shot from the point to cut Windsor’s lead to 2-1 with 4:22 remaining in the frame. Just 16 seconds later, Blade Jenkins forced a turnover deep in the Spitfires’ zone and Mason Kohn finished the play off with a speedy one-timer for his 20th goal of the season. Saginaw also outshot Windsor 16-8 in the second period.

During the final frame, Windsor had a plentiful amount of scoring chances throughout the first 10 minutes. Saginaw committed a slashing penalty with 6:59 expired in the period, which provided Windsor with an opportunity to reclaim their lead. Smith had a one-timer attempt stifled on the man-advantage, which would be the first of several quality scoring chances in the period.

With less than 6:00 remaining in the contest and the score still knotted at 2-2, the Spirit clamped down in the Spitfires’ defensive zone. Saginaw peppered Windsor goalie Brock Baier with shot after shot in hopes of catching the backup netminder out of position. Windsor successfully defended the Spirit pressure, though, and Smith potted an empty net goal, his 20th tally of the season, to put the game out of reach at 3-2. Windsor also outshot Saginaw in the third period, 11-10.

Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jake Smith (WSR) – 2G, A, +1
  2. Brock Baier (WSR) – W, 31 saves
  3. Nathan Staios (WSR) – G

The Saginaw Spirit (29-30-9-0, 67 points, 4th in West Division) will face the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 1st round of the OHL Playoffs beginning on Friday, March 23rd on the road in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The first Spirit home game of the playoffs is scheduled for Monday, March 26th at The Dow Event Center. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.

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