The Saginaw Spirit (10-13-3-2) were a discombobulated mess
for the first couple months of the 2016-17 Ontario Hockey League season after a difficult road-heavy schedule.
The past two months, however, have been a much different story with the Spirit winning 8 of its last 10 games at the Dow Event Center, including a 3-0 shutout victory over the division rival Sarnia Sting (16-11-3-0) tonight.
A 2016 draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, Cormier would set the tone for redemption by turning away all 27 Sarnia shots for his second shutout
“After the weekend, it made us a little sour when the game didn't go the way we wanted it to go, and it shouldn't have went that way,” Cormier said. “We played really well as a team today, I just tried to stay calm and make those key saves that the team needed, because that's my job.”
Spirit head coach Spencer Carbery had nothing but praise for his goal tender, pointing out Sarnia's group of elite scorers' whom Cormier had no problem shutting down tonight.
“It was probably one of the top three games I've seen him play,” Carbery said of his goal tenders' performance. “He didn't face a ton (of shots), but he faced probably ten quality looks. He was on tonight and they've got -I can count- four of their forwards who are elite goal scorers, so that's not easy to do against that team. To put up a goose egg, a shut out against them, he did a great job tonight.”
The Spirit dominated early on, completely owning the neutral zone while out shooting Sarnia 9-2 in the first period before Kris Bennett (6) found the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead at 7:49 of the second period with assists from Hayden Hodgson and D.J. Busdeker.
Busdeker, a recently signed free agent from Dexter, MI is a hard-nosed forward who isn't afraid to go to the dirty parts of the ice to get the job done, recorded his first career OHL point with an assist tonight. Playing alongside two similar grinders in Bennett and Hodgson, Busdeker is carving out a nice spot in this Spirit lineup with his hard work and team-first attitude.
“It feels good, it definitely wasn't the way I had envisioned it, I kind of tripped the guy up but it's good to get it out of the way.” Busdeker said. “You know, I'm playing with two great line mates, so they make it pretty easy on me so it's been good playing with those two. It's always good when you can come out and get a win at home in front of the fans. We came out and played really hard in the first twenty minutes, I think we only held them to two shots in that first period, so I think we were all motivated to come out and get a big two points.”
At the risk of sounding like the proverbial broken record, Spirit defenseman Filip Hronek (a second round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL draft) would once again make his presence felt at both ends of the ice tonight.
After securing possession of the puck and leading the breakout by skating the puck deep into the Sarnia zone, while drawing the attention of three Sting defenders, Hronek managed to find Hodgson in the high slot with a nifty backhand saucer pass.
Hodgson (11) finished strong, burying his eleventh of the season, beating Sarnia goal tender Justin Fazio on the shortside after a nice toe drag for a 2-0 Spirit lead at 18:02 of the second period. Jesse Barwell added an assist on the goal.
Hodgson (12) who was traded from Sarnia to the Spirit last season, would seal the win with his twelfth of the season on an empty net goal with assists from Brady Gilmour and Keaton Middleton at 18:42 of the third period.
Carbery will now prepare his team for an eastern conference road trip this weekend to battle the fourth place Hamilton Bulldogs (13-11-3-1) at the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton, ON Sat. evening followed by a visit to the eastern conference leading Oshawa Generals (18-7-0-2) at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa, ON on Sunday to cap another three game week.
“We're going on the road, heading to Hamilton on Saturday and Oshawa on Sunday,” Carbery said. “Those are two of the best teams in the eastern conference so we are going to need to be on our game. We will get on the road tomorrow, we'll have a light practice and we will shift our focus to Hamilton.”
Editor's Note: The Busdeker assist was taken away after the game by the official scorers...