The Saginaw Spirit (35-14-2-2) finished the 2019 Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup Series with a 'clean sweep' (8 games to none) following a dominant 9-2 victory over the Flint Firebirds (10-42-4-0) in the finale at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw tonight.
Saginaw's offensive support was fueled by Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (27) who finished with a hat trick, scoring 3-goals tonight, followed by Edmonton Oilers prospect Ryan McLeod (17) and New York Islanders prospect Blade Jenkins (20) who each finished with 4-points apiece respectively (1-goal, 3-assists for each).
“We were just trying to come out and play our game,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, we had a big win against London just prior to here, so we're just trying to continue to play the same way. We just have to have good habits and stick to our details, so moving forward that's going to be key for us.”
The Spirit jumped out to an early lead with first period goals from Albert Michnac (15) and Cole Perfetti (23) before the Firebirds responded with a goal from Riley McCourt (6) as the Spirit would take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Saginaw opened up a commanding lead in the middle frame when McLeod, Tippett, and Jenkins each scored, expanding the Spirit lead to 5-1 after two periods of play.
Tippett kicked off a third period scoring barrage with a power play goal for a 6-1 lead at the 3:12 mark, while Minnesota Wild prospect Damien Giroux (23) added his twenty-third tally of the season to make it a 7-1 game nearly 2-minutes later at the 4:55 mark, which was followed by a power play goal from New York Islanders prospect Bode Wilde (14) for an 8-1 Spirit lead at 9:37 of the third period.
The Firebirds would pick up a late goal from Jake Durham (33) to cut the Saginaw lead to 8-2 at 12:57 of the third period, before Tippett would round out the scoring, completing the hat trick for a 9-2 Spirit lead at 13:40 of the third period.
Giroux and Perfetti each finished with 3-points apiece respectively (1-goal, 2-assists each) followed by Wilde, who finished with 2-points (1-goal, 1-assist) while Saginaw defenseman Justin Murray added 2-assists, along with 1-assist each from Cole Coskey, Jake Goldowski, and D.J. Busdeker for the Spirit.
Saginaw rookie goal tender Tristan Lennox turned in another impressive performance between the pipes, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he would face in net for the Spirit tonight.
Sitting firmly in third place in the OHL's western conference standings (74-points) and with 15 regular season games remaining, the Spirit have a legitimate opportunity to break the franchise record (91-points back in 2006-07) for points in a single season.
Jenkins and his Spirit teammates are hoping to continue picking up some of those points down the stretch in order to secure a high playoff spot with home ice advantage.
“With us, it just kind of comes down to points,” Jenkins concluded. “And at this stage, every point going into the end of the year matters because you're fighting for playoff position. You want that home ice advantage and we're looking to win a conference championship here. So for us, we're hoping to come out and keep playing the same way every night.”
The Spirit will now prepare for a pair of big home games this weekend when potential first round playoff opponent, the Owen Sound Attack (27-23-2-2) comes to town for a 7:05 pm face off on Friday night, followed by a visit from the Oshawa Generals (who are currently in a 3-way tie for second place in the eastern conference with Sudbury and Niagara) for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow on Saturday night.
Video of Saginaw Spirit players celebrating and posing with I-75 Divide Cup trophy tonight: