Blade Jenkins had 3-points (2-goals, 1-assist) to help the Saginaw Spirit (10-9-3-0) leap-frog the London Knights (10-11-2-0) jumping from eighth place, into a sixth place tie with the Guelph Storm (10-9-1-2) in the western conference standings after its third straight win (second in the I-75 divide cup series this year) with a 4-1 victory over the Flint Firebirds at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, MI tonight.
Saginaw head coach Troy Smith was happy to see his team out-shoot the Firebirds 17-6 in the opening period, getting a goal late, as Flint flipped the script, out-shooting the Spirit 12-6 in the second, however, his team still managed to add to its lead with another goal in the middle period, before scoring twice, despite getting out-shot 10-8 in the final frame.
“I think we caught them on their heels in the first, then saw what their team is like in the second where it was a lot more even,” Smith said. “In the third, we were fortunate to get some bounces and sneak one out of here.”
The Spirit drew first blood late the opening period when Jenkins (9) scored his ninth goal of the season from Duncan Penman and Damien Giroux at 15:53 of the first period.
Penman had kept the play alive by pinching in from the left point, working the puck to Giroux along the half boards, who sent a nice centering pass to the front of the Firebirds' net, where Jenkins found himself all alone, beating Flint goal tender Luke Cavallin to give Saginaw a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Spirit would add another goal late in the middle frame when Giroux (9) scored his ninth of the season, as Jenkins returned the favor with an assist on the goal, along with another assist from Spirit defenseman Keaton Middleton to take a 2-0 lead at 16:48 of the second period.
Flint answered with a power play goal midway through the third period when Nicholas Caamano (12) cut to the net with Giroux defending stride for stride while poke-checking, as Caamano used the blade of Giroux's stick as a ramp to redirect a wrist shot, which launched like a rocket over Evan Cormier's left shoulder and into the back of the net for his twelfth goal of the season from Jake Durham and Marcus Gretz at 6:40 of the third period to get to within a goal (2-1) of the Spirit.
The Spirit responded just 13-seconds later when Jenkins (10) beat Cavallin with his second goal of the night from Caleb Everett and Middleton for a 3-1 Spirit lead at 6:53 of the third period.
Saginaw put the game out of reach for Flint (who now have just 1-win in its last 13-games) when veteran Spirit forward Daniil Vertiy (2) scored his second goal of the season, opening up a 4-1 lead with assists from Max Grondin and Marcus Crawford at 9:56 of the third period.
Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) stopped 27 of the 28 shots he would face in net for the Spirit tonight.
Smith will give his Spirit players a little time to enjoy the holiday tomorrow, before preparing for the Firebirds, who will be right back in Saginaw the day after Thanksgiving for the second of a home-and-home at 7:30 pm at the Dow Event Center on Friday night.
"We'll have a short practice tomorrow and allow them to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with either their host family or their real family," Smith said. "Then we need to make sure they're focused because we have Flint back in our building Friday night."