Trailing the Kitchener Rangers 4-3 with 37 seconds left in regulation, Spirit head coach Spencer Carbery made the decision to pull goal tender Evan Cormier for an extra attacker and the gamble paid off when rookie Damien Giroux hit Detroit Red Wings prospect Filip Hronek at the right circle for his eleventh goal of the season to force overtime and guarantee the Spirit at least one critical point in the standings.
However, the frenzy inside the Dow Event Center would come to an abrupt end when Kitchener right wing Joseph Garreffa (21) managed to sneak the puck past Cormier 2:33 into overtime, giving the Rangers a 5-4 overtime victory in what was a see-saw battle tonight.
Kitchener had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on back to back goals from Riley Damiani (8) and Darby Llewellyn (18) in the first half of the first period.
Coming off of a 2 goal performance last night, D.J. Busdeker (7) made it a 2-1 game with his seventh goal of the season with assists from Giroux and Hronek at 14:19 of the first period.
With 90 seconds remaining in the first period, Spirit rookie Max Grondin (5) scored his fifth goal of the season from Kris Bennett and Cole Coskey at the 18:30 mark to send the two teams into the first intermission tied at 2 goals apiece.
Midway through the second period, Grondin was whistled for a 2 minute interference penalty, opening the door for Kitchener's Adam Mascherin (33) who put his team back on top 3-2 with a power play goal at 9:07 of the second period.
The Spirit would jump back on top with a 3-2 lead early in the third period when Brady Gilmour (23) scored his twenty third of the season from Busdeker and Giroux at 4:47 of the third period.
The Rangers responded by taking a 4-3 lead just 42 seconds later on a goal from left wing Nick McHugh (11) at 5:29 of the third period leading up to the late game heroics of Hronek and Garreff.
Cormier managed to turn away 27 of the 32 shots he faced between the pipes for the Spirit tonight.
The Spirit (21-26-7-2) with 51 points in the standings, still have some ground to make up in order to catch the Sarnia Sting (58 points) who lead Saginaw by 8 points for the final western conference playoff spot after a Flint Firebirds' 7-5 victory over Sarnia at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint tonight.
The Spirit have an excellent opportunity to put tonight's overtime loss in the past and chip away at Sarnia's 8 point lead two days from now with a 2:05 pm road game against the Sting at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON Monday afternoon.