Saginaw Spirit Aim to Keep Climbing

    icon Sep 15, 2011
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Success has a price. A sports team must pay the price of extra effort in order to attain success. A second price of success is that expectations, in turn, become higher.

That's the story as the Saginaw Spirit enter their 10th season in the Ontario Hockey League. Last season they won their first OHL West Division regular season crown and made a good playoff run.

Plenty of talent will return for the 2011-12 campaign, while several newcomers will bolster the lineup.

"This hockey club has every opportunity to move to the next level," says Leigh Cunningham, Director of Broadcasting and Communications. "The veteran core of the team remains pretty much intact. They have learned from their experiences going deep into the playoffs last season against Windsor."

On the forward line, Josh Shalla scored 47 goals last season, but there is a chance he will move up the chain to another team and closer to the National Hockey League. Shalla was followed by Brandon Saad with 27 goals, Vince Trocheck with 26 and John McFarland with 25.

But it's not all about scoring goals, Cunningham explains. "We had one the best power plays in the OHL last year, but we were also No. 1 in penalty-killing," he notes. "We will show a nice mix of good offense and good defense."

Garret Ross, Justin Kea and Anthony Camara are among the returning forwards who emphasize physical, defensive play.

Speaking of physical, Spirit fans will take notice of newcomer Jamie Oleksiak among the ranks of defensemen. He's 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, but he carries his size with the speed and athleticism of a smaller player. Fellow defender Brandon Archibald is no slouch, either, at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds.

The team's top offensive defenseman, Ryan O'Connor, is back, along with Saginaw's own Brad Walch for his final junior season. The Spirit also have added Steve Strong, who played last year at Belleville.

Goalies Tad Galansky and Jake Peterson both are ready to step up after playing in reserve last season. Galanski hails from the Czech Republic and is the Spirit's lone European player. He will turn 20 during the season, while Peterson remains a youthful top prospect at age 17. A year ago, both netminders posted solid goals-against averages in the 2.9 range.

Coach Todd Watson is entering his fifth season, and his system of solid two-way play is well established. The Saginaw Spirit no longer seem like a "new" team in the OHL.

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