The Saginaw Spirit (45-16-3-3) fell short of a conference championship following a 5-2 loss to the London Knights (46-15-6-1) in front of a sold out crowd of 5,712 at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Looking ahead to a fresh start in the post-season, Spirit head coach Chris Lazary has put tonight's loss in the past, focusing more on the tremendous accomplishments of his team this season.
“We told our group, if we knew we were going to be the second seed to start the playoffs at the start of the year, we'd sign up for that all day long,” Lazary said. “But, everything happens for a reason, obviously it wasn't meant to be for us tonight, but hopefully that bodes well for us moving forward.”
The Spirit jumped out to an early lead midway through the opening frame when rookie sensation Cole Perfetti (37) knocked his own rebound out of mid-air and past London goal tender Jordan Kooy with an assist from Owen Tippett for a 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the first period, while the Knights answered with a power play goal from Evan Bourchard (16) at the 15:45 mark to knot the game at 1-goal apiece heading into the first intermission.
London would regain the lead when Kevin Hancock (51) scored another power play goal to give the Knights a 2-1 lead at 3:05 of the second period, before D.J. Busdeker (15) showed off his impressive penalty kill skills near the end of a 4-minute power play for the Knights when he scored a short handed goal with an assist from Damien Giroux to tie the game at 2-goals apiece at 9:23 of the second period.
Hancock (52) lit the lamp with his second tally of the night near the end of the middle frame for a 3-2 lead at 15:36 of the second period.
The Knights scored again early in the final frame when Paul Cotter (9) scored with an assist from Joey Keane for a 4-2 lead at 4:20 of the third, before Nathan Dunkley added an empty net goal for a 5-2 lead at 17:39 of the third period.
The Spirit will wrap up the regular season with a trip to the Soo to take on the Greyhounds in a 2:07 pm face off at GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie, ON tomorrow afternoon, before focusing on the 2019 OHL playoffs, where the Spirit will open with home ice advantage against the No. 7 seed Sarnia Sting next week.