The Saginaw Spirit (14-16-5-2) battled back from a 2-1 deficit when Kris Bennett scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime; which eventually led to a shootout, where they would break a 5 game losing skid with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Sarnia Sting (17-16-5-1) in front of 3,880 fans at the Dow Event Center tonight. The Spirit now trail this Tuesday's opponent and rival, the Flint Firebirds by just 4-points for the final playoff spot in the western conference of the Ontario Hockey League.
Bennett (9) scored his ninth of the season with 48 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 2 goals apiece with assists coming from Filip Hronek and Cole Coskey after the Spirit had pulled goal tender Evan Cormier for an extra attacker.
The Sting would out shoot the Spirit by a 3-2 margin in the 3 on 3 overtime session, however, neither team was able to score, forcing the shootout where Cormier stopped the first Sarnia shooter he would face.
Hronek, a second round draft pick (53 overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL draft who was playing in his first game back with the team since returning from the 2017 IIHF U20 WJC where he captained the Czech Republic national team, then scored on Saginaw's first shootout attempt.
Sarnia forward Adam Ruzicka (who recently returned from the WJC as well where he played for his home country of Slovakia) was able to force extra shooters when he got one past Cormier after each team had missed on its previous chances.
Spirit forwards Hayden Hodgson and Brady Gilmour would each miss and Cormier stopped the Sting's Jeff King and Brady Hinz, leaving the door open for Saginaw's Kirill Maksimov who beat Justin Fazio for the win.
The Spirit had fallen behind late in the first period following a 2 minute high stick minor to Bennett when Sting forward Jaden Lindo (11) scored his eleventh of the season while on the power play at 17:35 of the first period to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Gilmour (11) buried his eleventh of the season early in the next period with assists coming from D.J. Busdeker and Hronek just 54 seconds into the second period.
Ruzicka (13) beat Cormier with a one-timer on a very nice pass from Filip Helt to take a 2-1 lead early in the third period. Anthony Salinitri assisted on the goal for Sarnia as well.
Cormier stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in net for the Spirit tonight while his counterpart, Fazio turned away 35 of the 37 shots for the Sting.
The Spirit will try to build on tonight's win when they welcome the Erie Otters to the Dow Event Center tomorrow night for a 7:05 pm face off. The Flint Firebirds will then come to Saginaw Tue. night to continue the I-75 Divide Cup Series.