The Saginaw Spirit (14-9-1-2) got another huge performance from Russian import goal tender Ivan Prosvetov (a fourth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL draft) whose 39 saves led the Spirit to a 2-1 victory over the Sarnia Sting (11-12-2-2) while giving new head coach Chris Lazary his first home victory at the Dow Event Center tonight.
The Spirit have now picked up 7 of a possible 8 points since Lazary has taken over as head coach following the release of Troy Smith four games ago, bumping the Spirit into fourth place in the OHL's western conference standings, which sets up a big Saturday night home game against Saginaw's divisional rival, the second place Soo Greyhounds, who also dropped a 3-2 decision to Windsor tonight.
“We're just trying to keep this group going in a good direction and picking up points,” Lazary said. “Looks like Sault Ste Marie lost in regulation tonight so these two points are huge. It makes Saturday's game that much bigger, but we're just about trying to win games right now.”
The Spirit struck first midway through the opening frame when Saginaw forward Jake Goldowski (5) banged home a rebound goal with assists coming from D.J. Busdeker and Aidan Prueter to give the Spirit an early 1-0 lead at 9:24 of the first period, while Spirit rookie Cole Perfetti (12) scored in his third straight game (picking up at least 1-point in four straight games) with assists from Cole Coskey and Bode Wilde for a 2-0 Saginaw lead at 4:25 of the third period.
Prosvetov, who's coming off an impressive 48-save shutout performance against Owen Sound this past Sunday, has been playing like he's from another planet; having not allowed a goal in over 107-minutes (over 5-periods) between the pipes for Saginaw, however, it would take a Saginaw penalty to prove that the Russian goal tender was in fact human when Sarnia LW Hugo Leufvenius (18) finally managed to score a power play goal, cutting the Saginaw lead to 2-1 at 7:01 of the third period.
The Spirit used its first round pick in the 2018 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft to select Prosvetov (13th overall) hoping to fill the void that had been left when former New Jersey Devils' prospect Evan Cormier aged out of the league last year; and now after having some Canadian visa issues, which led to a bit of a slow start, it's looking like the young Moscow native is becoming everything and more of what the Spirit had expected.
“You're seeing the goalie we thought we had,” Lazary said of Prosvetov's recent performance. “Everyone was on him early and he wasn't at his best. He had a few tough starts, but his last three have been outstanding, he's the reason why we're picking up points. He was the leader again tonight, he made about four or five saves where you just scratch your head and it's unbelievable how he keeps the puck out. So, Ivan's clicking; we've got to give a better effort in front of him, but if we can get both things going here we'll just start taking over games.”
The Spirit will now be looking to keep things moving in a positive direction when the Greyhounds head south over the mighty Mackinaw Bridge then travel down I-75 for a 7:05 pm face off right back here at the Dow on Saturday night.
Video of Saginaw Spirit goal tender Ivan Prosvetov earning first star of the game: