Veteran Spirit forward Mason Kohn (9) scored 2-goals, while defenseman Marcus Crawford assisted on every one of Saginaw's four goals, helping the Spirit (19-13-3-0) to a 4-2 victory over the defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires (19-13-2-1) at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON this afternoon.
With this afternoon's win, the Spirit (41-points) leap-frogged the Guelph Storm (40-points) moving into a three-team tie; along with Windsor (41-points) and the London Knights (41-points) for fourth place in the OHL's western conference standings.
The Spitfires jumped out to an early lead when rookie LW Jordan Frasca (1) beat Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier for his first career OHL goal with assists coming from Chris Playfair and former Spirit (2014) draft pick Igor Larionov Jr. to take a 1-0 lead at 1:34 of the first period.
Saginaw would take advantage of a Spitfires' 2-minute tripping penalty to Playfair midway through the opening period when Spirit forward Damien Giroux (14) slipped a power play goal past Windsor net-minder Michael DiPietro to tie the game at 1-goal apiece with assists coming from Caleb Everett and Marcus Crawford at 7:48 of the first period.
Windsor regained the lead when 2017 Russian Import defenseman Lev Starikov (3) scored his third goal of the season from Curtis Douglas and Luke Boka, giving the Spit's a 2-1 lead at 10:12 of the first period.
After another Windsor penalty, a 2-minute tripping minor to defenseman Austin McEneny just past the five and a half minute mark in the second period, Kohn (8) scored the first of his two tallies, a power play goal set up by Everett and Crawford (exactly like the Giroux power play goal) to tie the game at 2-goals apiece at 5:34 of the second period.
Just 53-seconds following Kohn's power play goal, Spirit captain Keaton Middleton (a 6-foot-6 defenseman selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL draft) scored -what would turn out to be- the game winner, his third goal of the season with assists coming from Crawford and Giroux for a 3-2 Spirit lead at 6:27 of the second period.
Windsor pulled DiPietro for an extra attacker with 1:42 left in the game, creating an opportunity for Kohn, who rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter, his second goal of the night, from D.J. Busdeker and yup, you guessed it, Crawford again for his fourth assist of the night, and a 4-2 lead at 18:50 of the third period.
In a match-up featuring two of the top major junior hockey goal tenders in the world under 20 years of age, both would live up to the billing, as Cormier managed to stop 27 of the 29 shots he would see in net for the Spirit, while his counterpart, DiPietro turned away 26 of the 29 shots he would face between the pipes for Windsor, with each goalie stepping up for his respective team.
The Spirit will now shift focus to the second half of the OHL season, where the schedule features more games against some very tough western conference rivals, starting with a trip over the Blue Water Bridge on Wednesday for a 7:05 pm face off against the Sarnia Sting at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, before returning home on Jan. 5, for a 7:05 pm face off against the Erie Otters at the Dow Event Center Friday night.
Highlights below from last meeting with Windsor a 5-1 loss back on 12/16/17 in Saginaw: