The Saginaw Spirit (3-6-1-0) managed to rebound from a 2-1 loss to Guelph on Saturday night
by skating to a signature win over the top eastern conference team in the OHL with a 3-2 victory over the Peterborough Petes (8-4-0-1) at the Dow Event Center tonight.
First year Spirit head coach Troy Smith had a breakthrough moment with his young hockey team, learning they are capable of competing with any team in the league when skating as a complete unit and following the system.
Smith's young group battled back from a 1-goal deficit, tying the game in the first period (1-1) and doing it again in the second (2-2) then scoring the go-ahead goal in the third, before a delay of game penalty gave the Petes a 6 on 4 man-advantage for 2-minutes of the final 121-seconds of the game, only to kill that penalty and secure the win.
“I thought it was front to back, and it was a full team effort,” Smith said. “I thought that was one of our most complete games, despite being out shot. I thought we all stuck together and we stuck to the game plan.”
With the game tied at 2-goals apiece midway through the final frame, veteran forward Cole Coskey (6) gave the Spirit a (3-2) lead it would not reliquish with his second goal of the game, his sixth of the season, from Marcus Crawford and Hayden Davis at 7:48 of the third period.
The Spirit had fallen behind midway through the opening period when Petes forward Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (3) beat Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier for his third goal of the season from Bobby Dow and Austin Osmanski for a 1-0 Peterborough lead at 10:24 of the first period.
Saginaw would answer a few minutes later when Coskey (5) scored the first of his 2 goals, with assists coming from Brady Gilmour and newly acquired forward Daniil Vertiy to tie the game at 1-goal apiece at the 13:04 mark of the first period.
Following the first of two Spirit 'delay of game' penalties, the Petes managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second when veteran forward Logan DeNoble (8) scored a power play goal from Nikita Korostelev and Matthew Timms at 5:52 of the second period.
Late in the second period, momentum shifted in favor of the Spirit for good when Davis pinched in from the blue line, picked up a pass from Damien Giroux and found Jackson, MI native Blade Jenkins (1) who buried his first career OHL goal from the high slot to knot the game (2-2) at 17:25 of the second period.
Jenkins, who was Saginaw's No. 1 pick in the 2016 OHL priority selection draft, is eager to continue his rookie campaign after scoring the first of (what is sure to be) many more goals in a Spirit sweater.
“It definitely takes the weight off of the shoulders,” Jenkins said of getting his first OHL goal. “Knowing you have that first one out of the way, it just kind of helps you as a player, with your confidence. Now, it's time to keep moving forward from here.”
With the Spirit heading to Peterborough later in the week for the second game of a home-and-home, the importance of this win, and the possibility of another road win, against a historic franchise was clearly evident to Jenkins.
“Obviously, with (Peterborough) being a top team in the league, I think this win gives us a lot of confidence moving forward, especially going into Thursday,” Jenkins continued. “Going into their own barn we'll be hoping to take another one from them.”
Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) was stellar in goal for the Spirit as well, particularly during the final 2:01 while Peterborough was on a 6 on 4 man-advantage, ultimately turning away 25 of the 27 shots on goal throughout the night.
Smith realizes that a signature win can turn a season around, so he'll be pushing his team to carry tonight's success into the historical Peterborough Memorial Centre in Peterborough, ON this Thursday night for a 7:05 pm face off.
“We've got to play the same team again, so, really we just have to take the good things and build on them and maybe make a few adjustment's to counter what they're going to come back at us with,” added Smith.
“At the end of the day it show's that when you stick together as a team and you stick to the system, you're going to have an opportunity to win every night in this league.”