The Saginaw Spirit (9-13-3-2) suffered an emotional 3-2 overtime loss to the Windsor Spitfires (18-5-4-0) in its Farewell To The Joe game Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
After its third game in three days, and having four players sidelined with injuries, including captain Mitchell Stephens (lower body injury) fatigue was an unfortunate factor for the Spirit despite having played six consecutive periods of arguably its best hockey under head coach Spencer Carbery this season.
“I thought we played pretty well, it just sort of turned at the end with a couple of calls and the overtime goal,” Carbery said.
“Even in the third period I thought we were okay, we just didn't have any jump. No one had any speed, we weren't tracking the way we normally do, we weren't getting in on the forecheck with three guys, we just didn't have it today, and that was okay.
“Sometimes you have to find a way to win when you don't have it, and we were on our way to doing that, and playing a solid game given the circumstances, it just turned on us at the end with those penalties and the overtime goal.”
Windsor defenseman Sean Day (a New York Rangers prospect and Detroit area native who began playing his youth hockey at Joe Louis Arena for Little Caesars) rounded out an amazing day with a 'natural hat-trick' after scoring the game winning goal at the 1:26 mark of the overtime period.
The Spirit had played 55 minutes, 36 seconds of virtual flawless hockey, dominating the Ontario Hockey Leagues No. 4 ranked team (No. 8 in the CHL) while protecting a 2-0 lead when things suddenly started to go south.
Spirit forward Kirill Maksimov, who had been trying to get to his feet while sliding across the ice when he collided with a Windsor player like a bowling ball taking out the ten-pin.
Maksimov was subsequently whistled for tripping, which was followed by a two-minute minor to Filip Hronek for putting his hand over the puck on the ice, and with a 5-on-3-man-advantage, it took Day just 21 seconds to score back to back power play goals to force overtime in the final 4:24 of regulation.
Windsor had out shot Saginaw 14-5 in the opening period, however, the Spirit would make the most of its 5 shots when Matthew Kreis (5) found the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season with assists from Cole Coskey and C.J. Garcia at 18:01 of the period for a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Hronek (a second round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, 53 overall in the 2016 NHL draft) gave his future team a glimpse of his offensive capability scoring his fourth goal of the season at 17:10 of the second period with assists from Maksimov and Damien Giroux giving the Spirit a 2-0 lead heading into the second intermission.
For now, Carbery will put the loss in the past and shift the focus to preparing his team to host the Sarnia Sting Thursday night at the Dow Event Center, however, he was thankful for the players' opportunity to experience playing at such a historic hockey venue.
“It's going to be a little bit bittersweet, losing the way we did,” Carbery said.
“But, all in all, I think they'll look back on it as a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they got to experience.”