With two of the best puck-handling defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League, the Saginaw Spirit (1-6-0-1) were poised to have one of the best power play units in team history. Through eight games, however, Saginaw's special team's unit is one of the worst in the league.
The Spirit dropped a 6-2 road decision to the No. 3 team in the Ontario Hockey League, the Kitchener Rangers (4-1-0-1) at the historic Kitchener Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, ON tonight.
The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period with back to back goals just 13 seconds apart: the first, from Connor Bunnaman (6) at 9:40 and the next from Dylan Seitz (2) at 9:53 of the period.
After Saginaw defenseman Keaton Middleton (fourth round, Toronto Maple Leafs 2016 NHL draft) was called for elbowing at 11:32 of the second period, Spirit captain Mitchell Stephens (second round, Tampa Bay Lightning 2015 NHL draft) scored a shorthanded goal, his second tally of the season, at 12:36 of the period to make it a 2-1 game.
The Spirit improved slightly on its much maligned penalty kill; but Kitchener did, however, manage to convert on 2 of its 8 power play opportunities.
The Rangers scored its first power play goal at 19:59 of the second, with just 1 second remaining in the period, then scored another power play goal just over a minute into the third period at the 1:11 mark.
As has been the case in 7 of 8 games this season, the Spirit were (once again) skunked on the power play tonight.
It's been a sore spot for the team all season as they are now a woeful 2 for 27 on power play opportunities throughout the first 8-games of this 2016-17 OHL season.
Special team's are now approaching a crisis level for the Spirit as they have only had one game (against the Peterborough Pete's on Oct 6th) where they managed to convert a power play opportunity.
That night in Peterborough, the Spirit managed to convert on 2 of its 3 power plays. Despite that one good effort against the Pete's, Saginaw remains a woeful zero for 24 in its seven other games this year.
The Rangers scored its fifth goal of the game early in the third period, chasing Spirit starting goal tender Evan Cormier (fourth round, New Jersey Devils 2016 NHL draft) at 5:49 of the third period. Backup Brendon Bonello would replace Cormier and allow one goal at the 18:00 minute mark of the final period.
Spirit forward Tye Felhaber (2) scored his second goal of the season from Stephens and Matthew Kreis halfway through the third period at the 12:57 mark.
Cormier managed to turn away 21 of the 26 shots he faced through his 45:49 minutes between the pipes for the Spirit while Bonello stopped 8 of the 9 shots he would face.
The Spirit return to the Dow Event Center to host (Rochester, MI native) Sean Day along with (former Spirit goal tending prospect) Joseph Murdaca and the (3-5) Mississauga Steelheads for a 7:05 pm face off tomorrow night.