The Saginaw Spirit (41-15-2-3) got big boost's from a recently promoted rookie forward, a second year forward, and a rookie goal tender; taking over sole possession of first place in both the West division and the Western conference of the Ontario Hockey League with a dominant 7-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs (13-47-1-1) in front of 4,696 at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw tonight.
The bruised and battered Spirit have been hit with the injury bug over the past month, forcing Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary to promote rookie Ethan Cardwell, while also calling on second year forward Camaryn Baber to step up and take on more of a prominent role within the offense, and they did not disappoint with Baber picking up 4-assists tonight, while Cardwell scored twice.
“Our scouting staff has done a phenomenal job,” Lazary said. “Every time a guy goes down and we bring another kid in, it's like they should be here full time. It bodes well for our future, it's an exciting time, and for a guy like (Ethan) Cardwell to come in and get two goals, it's pretty cool.”
Cardwell was the games No. 1 star, while Baber took home No. 2 star honors, followed by Spirit rookie goal tender Tristan Lennox, who was the No. 3 star after taking a shutout halfway through the third period, eventually stopping 30 of the 31 shots he would face in net for the Spirit tonight.
The Spirit jumped out to a big lead in the first frame when Albert Michnac (18) opened the scoring with assists from Baber and Justin Murray for a 1-0 lead at 3:47 of the first period, while Cardwell followed with back to back goals (from Baber and Mason Millman at 8:06) and another one (from Baber and Blade Jenkins at 12:21) for a 3-0 Spirit lead, before Jake Goldowski (12) capped the first period scoring with assists coming from Jenkins and Millman at 15:49 to send the Spirit into the first intermission with a 4-0 lead.
Cardwell, a 16-year old rookie from Courtice, ON received the call-up to join the Spirit for the remainder of the season from the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League last week, dressing in a 5-3 Spirit win over the Soo Greyhounds on Wednesday night, which seems to have given the second round pick (33 overall) from the 2018 OHL priority selection draft some much needed confidence.
“It's always nice when you get the call-up for the whole year,” Cardwell said. “The boys are looking like we have a chance to go on a big run here and now we just have to build off tonight.”
Saginaw would extend the lead midway through the middle frame when Reagan O'Grady (10) scored his tenth of the year from Damien Giroux and Bode Wilde for a 5-0 lead at 9:04 of the second period, while Giroux (27) followed with his twenty-seventh tally of the season from Baber and D.J. Busdeker for a 5-0 lead at 19:35 of the second period.
Wilde (18) capped the Spirit scoring with his eighteenth goal of the season with assists from Cole Perfetti and Busdeker for a 7-0 lead at 2:21 of the third period, while Kingston managed to get on the board when Frontenacs forward Ryan Cranford (17) broke up the Lennox shutout, cutting the Saginaw lead to 7-1 at 8:04 of the third period.
The Spirit will have a quick turnaround, welcoming the Peterborough Petes for a 5:30 pm face off at the Dow tomorrow afternoon.
Video of Spirit 'young guns' leaving the ice after being named three stars of the game: