A battered and bruised Saginaw Spirit (4-0) hockey club -playing without an injured Cole Perfetti and Nicholas Porco- battled back from a 2-goal deficit to force overtime, where Spirit forward Blade Jenkins (2) scored a heroic game winning goal in sudden death at 11:33 of overtime for a 5-4 OT victory and series sweep (4-games-to-none) of the Sarnia Sting (0-4) to clinch the first round of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League western conference quarter finals at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON tonight.
With the Spirit trailing 4-2 early in the final frame, Saginaw forward D.J. Busdeker (1) cut the Sarnia lead to 4-3 with his first goal of the playoffs, unassisted, at 5:20 of the third period, which was followed by Spirit forward Ryan McLeod (1) scoring on a feed from Brady Gilmour to tie the game at 4-goals apiece at 16:30 of the third period, eventually forcing the overtime session.
The Spirit had jumped out to an early lead in the first frame when Owen Tippett (5) scored his fifth of the post-season from McLeod and Gilmour at 1:20 of the opening period, but the Sting would respond just 1:41 later when Sarnia forward Franco Sproviero (1) tied the game at 1-goal apiece at the 3:01 mark, before Saginaw answered near the end of the frame when Spirit captain Damien Giroux (4) scored with an assist from Hayden Davis at 18:17 of the first period for a 2-1 Saginaw lead heading into the first intermission.
The Sting pulled ahead with a 3-goal scoring barrage in the middle frame, kicked off by Sarnia forward Ryan McGregor (1) who scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game at 2-goals apiece at 9:04 of the second period, then McGregor (2) followed with his second of the night to give the Sting a 3-2 lead at 11:13 of the second, while Sarnia forward Justin McCombs (2) capped the second period scoring to give the Sting a 4-2 lead at the 15:09 mark.
Sarnia managed to remain close throughout the game behind an incredible playoff performance from former Spirit goal tender Cam Lamour, who stopped an unprecedented 50 of the 55-shots he would see in net for the Sting with an impressive 50-save performance in his first career playoff start, while his counterpart, Spirit goal tender Ivan Prosvetov turned away 28 of the 32-shots he saw in between the pipes for Saginaw.
The Spirit will now get some much-needed rest and recovery time before learning who they will face in the western conference semi-finals next week.
Second Round Scenarios:
After each round of the 2019 OHL playoffs the brackets are re-seeded, with the remaining top-seeded teams being matched up against the lowest remaining seeds. The No. 1 seed London Knights advanced with a sweep (4-0) of the No. 8 Windsor Spitfires, and No. 4 Guelph Storm also advanced, sweeping the No. 5 Kitchener Rangers (4-0) while the No. 3 Soo Greyhounds currently lead the No. 6 Owen Sound Attack (3-games-to-1) as the only western conference series yet to be decided, leaving the second round in limbo.
If the Soo manage to eliminate Owen Sound, then London (as the No. 1 seed) would meet Guelph (the No. 4 seed) in the second round, and the Spirit (No. 2) would meet the Greyhounds (No. 3) in the second round; however, if Owen Sound (who are the lowest remaining seed at No. 6) can come back and win that series against the Soo, then the No. 6 Attack (as the lowest seed) would be matched up against the top-seeded Knights in the second round, while No. 2 Saginaw would then meet No. 4 Guelph.
So, I think it's a safe bet that the entire Spirit Nation army will instantly become huge Owen Sound Attack fans over the next few games, if for nothing else, than to continue extending that series as far as possible in order to give a very banged up Spirit team some valuable healing and recovery time.