The Saginaw Spirit (17-20-6-2) completed a successful eastern conference road trip with a 6-3 victory over the North Bay Battalion (18-24-3-0) led by Kris Bennett's hat trick in front of 2,565 fans at North Bay Memorial Gardens in North Bay, ON this afternoon.
Just 26-seconds into the game, Spirit forward Hayden Hodgson was whistled for a check to the head, forcing an early penalty kill.
Bennett would respond by taking a long stretch pass from Keaton Middleton, creating a breakaway where he beat Battalion goal tender Brent Moran for a shorthanded goal and a 1-0 Spirit lead at 1:43 of the first period.
North Bay would answer just 29-seconds later when Max Kislinger (3) beat Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier for his third goal of the season to tie the game at one goal apiece at 2:12 of the first period.
Fresh out of the penalty box after serving 2-minutes for boarding, forward Cole Coskey (7) put the Spirit back up 2-1 with his seventh goal of the season from Markus Niemelainen at 6:06 of the first period.
North Bay battled back with two quick goals midway through the first period from Zach Poirier (10) and Brett McKenzie (21) to take a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.
Three straight North Bay penalties late in the second period would open the door for Hodgson (27) to bury his twenty-seventh goal of the season while on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game at 3-goals apiece at 16:55 of the second period. Middleton and Filip Hronek assisted on the goal.
Spirit rookie Max Grondin (3) scored his third of the season for what would turn out to be the game winning goal from C.J. Garcia and Jesse Barwell at 8:29 of the third period.
Bennett (14) redirected a Hronek shot from the point to give the Spirit a 5-3 lead with just over 6-minutes left in the game at the 13:55 mark of the final period. Bennett would then add an empty net goal to complete his hat trick at 19:41 of the final period rounding out the Spirit scoring.
Cormier managed to turn away 29 of the 32 North Bay shots he would face in net for the Spirit this afternoon.
The Spirit (42 points in the standings) now trail its rival the Flint Firebirds (46 points) by just 4-points for the eighth and final western conference playoff spot and will look to make up those 4-points with a return to the Dow Event Center for its next two games where it will host the Hamilton Bulldogs for a 7:05 pm game on Thursday night, and then welcome the Windsor Spitfires for a 7:05 pm game on Saturday night.