Don't look now, but the Saginaw Spirit (14-10-3-0) are tied for fifth place in the Ontario Hockey League's western conference after having won 11 of its last 14 games following a 3-1 victory over the Niagara IceDogs (13-9-3-2) at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Less than twenty four hours after an emotional roller-coaster victory last night, where the Spirit erased a 6-goal deficit to pull off an improbable 7-6 OT win against the top ranked team in junior hockey, head coach Troy Smith's biggest concern was the possibility of coming out too flat tonight.
“I was worried about that, and I was worried about (having to play) three in four nights, and that we wouldn't have our energy,” Smith admitted. “But, I thought we played a smart game. We probably didn't have the legs we've had in some other games, but we found a way to win, and limited their opportunities as much as we could.”
The Spirit picked up right where it had left off last night when Damien Giroux (11) scored his eleventh goal of the season with assists coming from Blade Jenkins and recently signed forward Jake Goldowski (who earned his first OHL point with the assist) just 64-seconds into the game to take a 1-0 lead at 1:04 of the first period.
Giroux attributes his team's recent success to having a good game plan to follow, and having everyone on the team working together, step by step, to execute that plan.
“I think it just comes down to following our process,” Giroux said. “We go into every game with the mental state of following our game plan. It's something we've been sticking to, and we've been having a good outcome. If we take the same approach and follow our game plan, then good things will happen.”
The IceDogs managed to fight its way back into the game after a Saginaw penalty midway through the first period when former Spirit forward Kirill Maksimov (16) scored his sixteenth goal of the season, a power play goal, to tie the game at 1-goal apiece at 10:53 of the first period.
Midway through the game, Spirit rookie defenseman Duncan Penman (3) buried the eventual game winner, scoring his second goal in as many nights, with assists coming from Jenkins and Marcus Crawford at 11:01 of the second period to take a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish.
The score would remain 2-1 until the last second of the game when Saturday night's OT hero, Cole Coskey (15) scored an empty-net goal from Mason Kohn and Crawford to make it a 3-1 game at 19:59 of the final period.
Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) had another stellar night in between the pipes for the Spirit, stopping 37 of the 38 shots he would face.
The red-hot Spirit will kickoff a 4-game road trip with a chance for revenge against the Hamilton Bulldogs (who scored 4-unanswered goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and beat the Spirit 4-3 at the Dow Event Center Friday night) when Saginaw travels to the First Ontario Centre in Hamilton, ON at 4 pm next Saturday.