The Saginaw Spirit (29-29-9-0) battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game at 3-goals apiece and force overtime, before eventually dropping a 4-3 OT decision to the London Knights (39-24-2-2) in front of 5,115 Spirit faithful for the final regular season home game at the Dow Event Center tonight.
After cutting the London lead to 3-2 late in the third period, second year Spirit forward Damien Giroux (19) scored the game-tying goal (3-3) forcing overtime, with assists coming from Blade Jenkins and Jake Goldowski at 17:17 of the third period, however, in the first minute of overtime, London defenseman Evan Bouchard (24) scored the game-winning goal at the :43 second mark, giving London the 4-3 OT win.
Coming into the game, the Spirit needed to make up 4-points in the western conference standings by winning its final two regular season games, while hoping the Erie Otters could beat the Guelph Storm (69-points in the western conference standings) tonight, in order to go from the No. 8 seed (where they'd face the top-seed Soo Greyhounds in the first round) to the No. 6 seed (where they'd likely meet the Sarnia Sting) in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
Erie did its part, earning a 6-4 win over the Storm tonight, however, with just 1-point for tonight's OT loss, the Spirit (67-points in the western conference standings) could now only tie the Storm (with 69-points each in the standings) and Guelph holds a better head-to-head record (3-wins, 1-loss) against the Spirit this season, so the Storm hold the tie-breaker advantage for the No. 6 seed.
Saginaw now needs to beat the Windsor Spitfires (No. 7 seed with 68-points in the western conference standings) on the road at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON tomorrow afternoon for a chance to open the OHL playoffs against the lesser of two very strong opponents; if the Spirit win, they jump to the No. 7 seed and play the No. 2 seed Kitchener Rangers in the first round, whereas if the Spirit lose tomorrow, they would open the playoffs against the Soo Greyhounds.
The Spirit had managed to draw first blood early tonight when Goldowski (11) scored his eleventh goal of the season with assists coming from from Reilly Webb and Max Grondin to give the Spirit an early 1-0 lead at 6:31 of the first period.
London evened things up just past the midway point of the opening period when Tyler Rollo (11) scored his eleventh goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1 at 12:10 of the first.
The Knights then managed to pull ahead midway through middle frame when second year forward Alex Turko (3) scored his third goal of the season for a 2-1 London lead at 9:26 of the second period.
Just 36-seconds into the final period, London LW Alex Formenton (a second round pick of the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 NHL draft, who started the season, playing one NHL game for the Sen's this year) gave the Knights a 3-1 lead with his twenty-ninth goal of the season at the :36 second mark of the third period.
The Spirit would make it a one-goal game late in the final frame when rookie defenseman Caleb Everett (a native of the Jackson, MI area) scored his sixth goal of the season with assists coming from Jenkins (also from Jackson, MI) and Grondin to cut the London lead to 3-2 at 16:22 of the third period.
Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier stopped 36 of the 40 shots he saw tonight, while his counterpart, Joseph Raaymakers turned away 33 of the 36 shots he faced in between the pipes for the Knights.
The Spirit will wrap up the regular season with a 2:05 pm road game against the Spitfires at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON tomorrow afternoon.