The Saginaw Spirit (17-10-2-2) took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the (8-game) I-75 Divide Cup Series when Spirit veteran Cole Coskey (16) broke a 4-4 tie with just 38-seconds left in regulation, scoring on a feed from Cole Perfetti for a 5-4 road victory against the Flint Firebirds at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, MI last night.
The win moves Saginaw (38-points) into a tie for second place (with the London Knights) in the Ontario Hockey League's western conference standings, however, the third place Firebirds (36-points) will not have long to wait for a chance at redemption with the second half of a home-and-home series scheduled for 7:05 pm tonight at the Dow Event Center.
Spirit captain Damien Giroux (19) who was in playing his first OHL game against younger brother Zacharie (a third round selection of the Firebirds in the 2019 OHL priority selection who was called up by Flint from the Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the NOJHL just nine days ago) gave the Spirit an early lead when big brother found the back of the net less than a minute into the game, scoring his nineteenth goal of the season with assists from Danny Katic and DJ Busdeker for a 1-0 Saginaw just :53 seconds into the first period.
Just 97-seconds following the Giroux goal, second year Spirit forward Camaryn Baber (5) followed with an unassisted tally to give the Spirit a 2-0 lead at the 2:30 mark of the first frame, while the Firebirds managed get on the scoreboard a few minutes later, taking advantage of a Saginaw penalty when Ethen Keppen (10) scored a power play goal to cut the Saginaw lead to 2-1 at 5:04 of the first period.
The Spirit answered with a man-advantage tally midway through the first period when Perfetti (16) scored a power play goal with assists from Busdeker and Giroux for a 3-1 lead at 9:40 of the first period, but the Firebirds would not fold, getting back to within 1-goal of Saginaw in the closing seconds of the period when Flint LW Brennan Othmann (6) scored his fifth of the season at the 19:56 mark, cutting the Spirit lead to 3-2 after one period of play.
Saginaw extended its lead midway through the middle frame when Katic (5) scored his fifth goal of the season from Coskey to take a 4-2 lead at 12:25 of the second period, but Flint managed to keep it the game close with a pair of goals in the final frame when Jake Durham (14) scored to cut the Spirit lead to 4-3 at 15:15 of the third, before Firebirds' forward Jack Phibbs (9) tied the game at 4-goals apiece at the 17:52 mark.
Flint goal tender Anthony Popovich stopped 41 of the 46 shots he saw in net for the Firebirds, while Saginaw netminder Marshall Frappier turned away 27 of the 31 shots he faced in between the pipes for the Spirit.
The two teams will be back at it for game-4 of the I-75 Divide Cup Series inside the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw with face off set for 7:05 pm tonight.