The Saginaw Spirit (5-2-1-0) moved into a 3-way tie (with the Soo and Guelph with 11-points each) for second place in the Ontario Hockey League's western conference standings, just one point behind the first place Kitchener Rangers (12-points) after scoring 6-unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 victory over the North Bay Battalion (3-5-0-0) at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw tonight.
Spirit captain Damien Giroux (a fifth round pick of the Minnesota Wild in the 2018 NHL draft) had a career 5-point night, finishing with a 'Hat Trick' and 2-assists to pace the Saginaw offense in tonight's victory, which sets up an epic battle for sole possession atop the western conference standings when Kitchener (who's coming off a 6-3 road win in Flint tonight) wraps up its recent road trip in Saginaw with a 5:30 pm face off against the Spirit right back here at the Dow tomorrow afternoon.
North Bay got the early jump when Battalion forward Rhys Forhan (1) scored an unassisted goal, his first of the year, giving his team a 1-0 lead at 5:31 of the opening period, before Spirit forward Max Grondin was whistled for a check-from-behind just past the midway point of the first, which led to a power play goal from Battalion defenseman Nick Young (2) who scored his second goal of the year for a 2-0 North Bay lead at 12:49 of the first period.
The Spirit responded towards the end of the first when Saginaw defenseman Bode Wilde (a second round pick of the New York Islanders, 41 overall, in the 2018 NHL draft) fired a rocket from the left point for his third goal of the season with assists coming from Hayden Davis and Giroux at the 17:17 mark of the first period, cutting the North Bay lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
Saginaw came out and played, arguably, its best period of hockey this year in the middle frame, knotting the game up when Blade Jenkins (who was also drafted by the New York Islanders, in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL draft) scored his second goal of the season from Giroux and Wilde to tie the game at 2-goals apiece at 10:39 of the second period.
Giroux followed with the eventual game-winner, scoring the first of his three goals tonight with assists from Cole Coskey and Albert Michnac to give the Spirit a 3-2 lead at 5:39 of the third period, before Giroux (4) lit the lamp with his second of the night from Coskey and Michnac again, giving Saginaw a 4-2 lead at 10:14 of the third period.
Michnac (5) followed with his fifth goal of the season on an assist from Coskey for a 5-2 lead at 11:24 of the third, while Giroux (5) completed the hat-trick just 12-seconds later with an assist coming from Nicholas Porco for a 6-2 Spirit lead at the 11:36 mark.
North Bay goal tender Christian Propp stopped 28 of the 34 shots he faced in net for the Battalion, while Spirit starter Ivan Prosvetov (a fourth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL draft) turned away 18 of the 20 shots he saw in between the pipes for the Spirit.
The Spirit will now prepare for its biggest game this year, welcoming the first place Rangers for a 5:30 pm face off at the Dow tomorrow afternoon.