The Saginaw Spirit (2-0) held serve in the opening round of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League western conference playoffs, treating the capacity crowd of 5,815 inside the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw to an impressive 5-1 victory over the Sarnia Sting (0-2) for a 2-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series.
Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary understands the Spirit faithful have endured a lot of post-season disappointment over the years, so feeling the energy inside the Dow last night, playing in front of a standing room only crowd has given the first year coach and his players the fuel needed for a deep playoff run.
“It's games like this that these guy's will remember for a long long time,” Lazary said. “There's nothing like playing in front of a crowd like this and in this building. We love playing for our fans, we recognize that this organization hasn't had the success, in seventeen years, that they've wanted and these guys are on an absolute mission to be the team that delivers what they deserve. We're enjoying it and you could hear it in here tonight when it got loud, it's unbelievable.”
The Spirit took advantage of an early Sarnia penalty when captain Damien Giroux (1) scored a power play goal with an assist from Bode Wilde for a 1-0 Saginaw lead at 5:42 of the first period, while Spirit rookie Cole Perfetti (2) followed with his second of the playoffs from Owen Tippett and Hayden Davis at the 8:42 mark, giving Saginaw a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Another Sarnia penalty near the end of the middle frame opened the door for Tippett (3) who scored a power play goal with assists coming from Giroux and Perfetti to extend the Spirit lead to 3-0 at 16:39 of the second period, before Saginaw would convert on its third power play opportunity early in the final frame when Wilde (2) scored the man-advantage tally, beating Sting goal tender Ethan Langevin glove high with a wrist shot on a feed from Albert Michnac and Tippett for a 4-0 Spirit lead at 1:43 of the third period.
Sarnia managed to get on the board midway through the final frame when Jacob Perreault (1) scored his first of the playoffs, but Giroux (2) sealed the game for Saginaw, scoring his second of the night with an assist from Justin Murray for a 5-1 Saginaw lead at 14:17 of the third period.
For the second straight game Spirit goal tender Ivan Prosvetov, a fourth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL draft, has shown why Spirit GM Dave Drinkill selected the Moscow native in the 2018 CHL import draft, stopping 37 of the 38 shots he saw in net, while picking up his second straight OHL playoff victory.
The Spirit will now head into a hostile environment, crossing over the Blue Water Bridge into Canada for game-3 of this best-of-seven OHL western conference series with puck drop set for 7:05 pm inside the Progressive Auto Sales Arena on Tuesday night in Sarnia, ON.
Lazary hopes to carry this momentum into game-3, stressing the importance of getting off to a good start Tuesday night.
“We just want to make sure that we start hot,” Lazary added. “If you look at our game (tonight) we did a lot of things well, but there are a lot of things we have to improve on. Just getting out in that first five minutes is like a little mini-game in itself; if you can win the first five minutes and settle in, whether you score or at least you're playing well and have the momentum, that will be the key.”
Video of Spirit captain Damien Giroux scoring his first playoff goal against Sarnia Saturday: