After watching a 3 goal lead disappear in the third period, veteran forward Matthew Kreis intercepted a pass to score the game winning goal and give the Saginaw Spirit (18-20-6-2) a 6-5 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs (22-18-3-2) at the Dow Event Center tonight.
With the win, the Spirit (44-points) are now just 2 points behind its rival the Flint Firebirds (46-points) for the eighth and final western conference playoff spot.
The Spirit had taken a commanding 5-2 lead heading into the final period only to watch Hamilton battle back with 3 unanswered goals late.
Spirit coach Spencer Carbery called a timeout around the 18:22 mark of the third period, and it appeared he knew what play the Bulldogs were going to run when Kreis (6) intercepted a D-to-D pass then beat Hamilton goal tender Dawson Carty stickside low for the game winning goal at 18:27 of the third period.
Carbery explained that the timeout was just to give his guys a breather as they had been going with just two lines for a good part of the final period, and that the goal was one-hundred percent Kreis reading the play and finishing strong.
“It was just Kreis (having) really good instincts and anticipation,” Carbery said. “And then, to not only make the play and turn the puck over, he goes in -looking cool as a Cucumber- and goes low blocker, it was just a huge goal for us.”
Kreis added that he was coached to pressure the puck, however, he also noted that he did see the Hamilton defenseman had fanned on the pass a little bit, leading to his interception.
“That's what we like to do, we like to puck pressure teams and I think he might have fanned on the (D-to-D) pass a little,” Kreis added. “I saw it, and I like shooting there, so I decided to go stick low.”
“The two points tonight was huge for us,” continued Kreis. “Especially with another two big games coming up. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into the weekend.”
The Spirit jumped out to an early lead when D.J. Busdeker (4) scored a shorthanded goal from Brady Gilmour and Marcus Crawford at the 11:00 mark of the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Cole Coskey (8) added to the Spirit lead with his eighth of the season, a power play goal with just two-tenths of a second remaining in the first period from Damien Giroux and C.J. Garcia at 19:59 to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Gilmour (17) extended the Spirit lead to 3-0 early in the second period with his seventeenth goal of the season from Hayden Davis and Coskey just 1:59 into the middle frame.
The Bulldogs, however, would draw to within one goal (3-2) of the Spirit with back to back goals from Niki Petti (10) and Matt Luff (16) at 8:46 and 11:15 of the second period respectively.
The Spirit finished the second period strong with another Coskey (9) goal, his ninth of the season from Gilmour and Filip Hronek for a 4-2 lead at 11:48 of the second period.
Spirit sniper Hayden Hodgson (28) extended the lead to 5-2 with his twenty-eighth goal of the season with an assist coming from Garcia at 13:46 of the second period.
Backup goal tender Brendan Bonello turned away 29 of the 34 shots he faced to earn his third win of the season for the Spirit tonight.
The Spirit will return to host the Windsor Spitfires on Saturday night for a 7:05 pm game at the Dow Event Center, before heading to the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON for a 1 pm game vs the Sarnia Sting on Sunday afternoon.