After a 5-2 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs Friday night, the Saginaw Spirit (38-16-3-2) capped a successful weekend with an 8-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday night, leap-frogging the Flint Firebirds (who dropped a 6-1 decision to Kingston Saturday night) to regain the top spot in the Ontario Hockey League's west division.
The Spirit were led by over age forward DJ Busdeker, who had a 5-point night, which included a Texas Hat Trick (4-goals) while adding an assist as well.
Busdeker (19, 20, & 21) would give the Spirit a nice cushion with a natural hat trick in the opening frame, scoring his first of the night with assists from Damien Giroux and DJ King just :57 seconds into the game then adding his second from Reilly Webb for a 2-0 lead just 23-seconds later at the 1:20 mark, before finishing the first frame with the 'Natty' on a feed from Giroux and Mitchell Smith to take a 3-0 lead at 18:18 of the first.
"The puck was just finding me tonight," Busdeker said. "I had two great linemates in G and Fett's (Giroux and Cole Perfetti) and Jenk's (Blade Jenkins) was with me as well, you know, they kind of did all of the work and found me, so credit to all of them for sure."
Hamilton managed to finally get on the board midway through the second when Bulldogs forward Jan Mysak (15) scored a shorthanded goal to cut the Saginaw lead to 3-1 at 10:35 of the second period, but the Spirit would salvage a goal on the same power play when Jenkins (14) roofed one over the shoulder of Hamilton goal tender Marco Constantini with assists from Mason Millman and Busdeker to take a 4-1 lead just 34-seconds later at the 11:09 mark, while Ryan Suzuki (17) followed with an unassisted goal on a shot (which was intended as a pass) but ricocheted off a Hamilton defenseman's stick for a 5-1 lead at 16:46 of the second.
The Spirit power play, ranked 20th in the league, has been looking much better as of late, especially Saturday night when Saginaw converted 7 for 4 chances with the man advantage as Suzuki (from Cole Coskey and Bode Wilde at 3:18 of the third) and Jake Goldowski (from Millman and Jenkins at 8:55 of the third) extended the Spirit lead to 7-1 with back to back power play goals, while Hamilton got a power play goal of its own when Ryan Winterton (12) scored at the 13:46 mark to make it a 7-2 game, before Busdeker (22) completed the 'Texas Hat Trick' with another power play goal to round out the scoring (8-2) with assists from Jenkins and Millman at 15:53 of the final frame.
After turning away 18 of 20 shots in a win against Kingston Friday, Saginaw goal tender Tristan Lennox looked stellar in net for the Spirit on back to back nights, stopping 25 of the 27 shots he would face in between the pipes for the Spirit on Saturday.
This win, over a very good Hamilton team (OHL champions just 2 years prior) capped a big week for the Spirit (81-points) who jumped into sole possession of first place in the OHL's west division standings following a 6-1 loss by the Firebirds (80-points) to Kingston at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint on Saturday night.
"Obviously, it was our goal this weekend to get four points and we did that," Busdeker added. "I think getting the division lead back was huge for us, so we've got a game in hand now. We control our own destiny and that's a good feeling going into the last month here."
The Spirit will be off for a few more days this week, before kicking off another eastern conference road trip with an 11 am face off against the Mississauga Steelheads inside the Paramount Fine Foods in Mississauga, ON Thursday morning.