The Saginaw Spirit dropped its fourth straight game of the 2016-17 Ontario Hockey League season in a 6-3 loss to the Ottawa 67's at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Saginaw looked like a completely different team early on with the return of three defensemen who were at NHL training camps. Keaton Middleton (Toronto Maple Leafs NHL training camp), Markus Niemelainen (Edmonton Oilers training camp), and Filip Hronek (Detroit Red Wings training camp) added some much needed depth at the defense position, allowing the team to move the puck out of their own zone. Hronek looked particularly impressive moving the puck well and peppering Ottawa goal tender with shots throughout the first period.
The Spirit would strike first when second year Spirit forward Kirill Maksimov redirected a Marcus Crawford wrist shot from the left point for a 1-0 Saginaw lead at 6:17 of the first period.
The Spirit, however, would dig themselves into a hole with penalties, allowing the 67's to build momentum on the power play which turned out to be the difference in the game tonight.
Halfway through the first period, Spirit veteran winger Hayden Hodgson was called for a check to the head penalty at 11:07 and Ottawa's Austen Keating capitalized with a power play goal to tie the game at 12:04 of the first period.
A minute and a half later Ottawa center Ben Fanjoy beat Spirit goal tender Brendon Bonello to give the 67's a 2-1 lead at the 13:34 mark of the first period, giving way to the Spirit demise.
Hodgson was then whistled for a double minor penalty for butt-ending as the buzzer sounded setting up a four-minute Ottawa power play to start the second period. Just 31 seconds into the second period, Spirit rookie Damien Giroux was whistled for a 5-minute match penalty (which includes at least a game misconduct) for slew-footing, giving the 67's a 5-on-3 power play for the next four-minute's and 31-seconds.
Midway through the two-man advantage, Spirit head coach Spencer Carbery made a goalie change, replacing Bonello with rookie Cameron Lamour.
Twenty seconds after the goalie change, Ottawa forward Travis Barron made it a 3-1 game with his first goal of the season at 2:49 of the second period.
Bonello had been suffering with a nagging injury, but no word from the Spirit if an injury was the reason for the goalie change as of yet.
Giroux could be facing an extensive suspension for the slew-foot penalty depending on the severity and level of intent which will be determined by the OHL after watching video of the play.
The Spirit managed to come away from the two-man advantage allowing just the one goal, then Brady Gilmour banged home his first goal of his soph. season in the OHL at 5:57 of the second period. Hronek and Tye Felhaber (also in his first game back from Toronto Maple Leafs training camp) assisted on the Gilmour goal.
The Spirit managed to out-shoot Ottawa in each of the three periods, but the penalties and an outstanding performance by 67's goal tender Olivier Lefrenier who stopped 39 of the 42 Saginaw shots on goal.
Ottawa scored two more second period goals and added another goal early in the third period to round out the scoring.
The Spirit will look to get back on track and hopefully return to a full roster when veteran goal tender Evan Cormier (who should be returning from New Jersey Devils NHL training camp soon) and Mitchell Stephens (who is still going strong at Tampa Bay Lightning's NHL training camp) return to the team.
The team will head out for its first road trip of the 2016-17 OHL season, taking on three eastern conference teams on Oct., 6th, 7th, and 8th for games in Peterborough, Kingston, and Ottawa.
The Spirit will continue its eastern conference run with another road game in Kingston on Fri Oct., 14 before returning to Saginaw to host the Mississauga Steelheads on Sat Oct., 15 at the Dow Event Center.