Detroit Red Wing prospect Filip Hronek took it upon himself to lead the Saginaw Spirit (19-20-6-2) to its fourth straight win, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist, including the game winner with just 11.7 seconds left in regulation for a 3-2 win over the always tough Windsor Spitfires (29-11-5-2) in front of 4,135 fans at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Hronek, who was drafted (53 overall) by the Red Wings in the second round of the 2016 NHL draft, crashed the net from the point and cleaned up his own rebound off of a Damien Giroux centering pass to beat Windsor goal tender Mario Culina and give the Spirit a 3-2 lead it would never relinquish at 19:49 of the third period. Forward Jesse Barwell also assisted on the Hronek goal.
The Spirit came out flying early on, out-shooting the Spitfires by an astronomical 20-3 margin in the first period, however, Culina was stellar between the pipes for his team, while Saginaw forward Cole Coskey and defenseman Marcus Crawford were whistled for back-to-back penalties at 7:28 and 7:56 respectively leading to a 5 on 3 man-advantage for Windsor.
The Spitfires made good on its 2-man-advantage, power play opportunity when right wing Jeremy Bracco (19) managed to sneak one past Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier for his nineteenth goal of the season at 9:15 of the first period, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Hronek took over early in the second period, doing what he does best, setting up Brady Gilmour (18) with his eighteenth goal of the season to tie the game at 1 goal apiece at 4:07 of the second period.
Hronek (7) would then give the Spirit a 2-1 lead with a nice shot from just outside the right circle, using the Windsor defenseman as a screen, shooting between his legs to beat Culina on the short side for his seventh goal of the season at 9:37 of the second period. Markus Niemelainen and Matthew Kreis assisted on the goal.
Windsor would tie the game at 2 goals apiece when Mikhail Sergachev (5) scored his fifth goal of the season from Cristiano DiGiacinto at 5:51 of the third period, which set the stage for Hronek's heroic game winning goal.
Despite winning its fourth straight game, the Spirit (46 points) were unable to gain any ground and remain 2-points behind rival the Flint Firebirds (48 points) for the eighth and final western conference playoff spot after Flint managed to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-3 at the Dort Federal Event Center earlier tonight.
The Spirit will attempt to make up that 2-point deficit at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON when it battles the Sarnia Sting in a 1 pm game tomorrow afternoon.
The Spirit will return home on Wednesday to host the Soo Greyhounds for a 7:05 pm game where it will also retire the No. 89 jersey of former captain and current Florida Panther Vincent Trochek at the Dow Event Center.