The Saginaw Spirit (14-8-1-1) drew even (1-1) in the I-75 Divide Cup Series with an 8-3 victory over the Flint Firebirds at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, MI tonight.
Spirit head coach Chris Lazary sees tonight's win as just one in a critical stretch of games heading into the end of December.
“You look at this game as one of ten games that are all against western conference teams and massive division rivals,” Lazaray said. “So, if we can go (get) seven or eight wins in those ten games going into Christmas, then you're in a good spot. But, we can't get ahead of ourselves, we have to reset and get back to work tomorrow to get ready for a tough team in Guelph.”
The Spirit jumped out to an early lead when Grand Blanc native Dalton Duhart (2) put Saginaw up 1-0 with an assist from Camaryn Baber at 5:28 of the first period, but the Firebirds answered less than a minute later with a goal from Evgeniy Oksentiyuk (13) to tie the game at the 6:24 mark.
Flint pulled ahead halfway through the opening frame when Connor Roberts (7) scored to give the Firebirds a 2-1 lead at 10:15 of the first period.
Saginaw took advantage a Flint penalty just past the midway point of the opening frame when captain Damien Giroux (15) scored a power play goal to knot the game at 2-goals apiece at 12:59 of the first period, which led to an Ilya Solobyov (3) goal with assists coming from Josh Bloom and Jake Goldowski at the 15:05 mark, giving the Spirit a 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Spirit extended the lead early in the middle frame, taking advantage of another Flint penalty when Jake Goldowski (7) scored on the power play with a nice shot over the right shoulder of Firebirds goal tender Anthony Popovich with an assist from Danny Katic for a 4-2 lead at 5:20 of the second period.
Flint battled back to close the gap later in the period when Emmet Pierce (1) scored his first of the season from Ty Dellandrea and Braeden Kressler to cut the Spirit lead to 4-3 at 13:35 of the second period, but it would not take Saginaw very long to respond as Spirit rookie T-Bone Codd (3) picked up a nice stretch pass from Mason Millman at the Flint blueline and cut to the net while fighting off a Firebird defender, before scoring through the five hole and chasing Popovich in favor of Flint backup Luke Cavallin as the Spirit extended the lead to 5-3 at 17:11 of the second.
The Spirit converted on another man-advantage opportunity when Cole Perfetti (11) roofed a power play goal over the left shoulder of Cavallin with an assist coming from Blade Jenkins for a 6-3 lead at 18:28 of the second period.
Saginaw added to its lead midway through the final frame when Perfetti (12) scored his second of the night, banging home a rebound off a shot by Jenkins for a 7-3 lead at 10:09 of the third period, while Ethan Cardwell (7) would wrap up the scoring on an acrobatic feed from Perfetti with an additional assist from Solovyov for an 8-3 Spirit lead at 16:35 of the third..
The Spirit will continue this road trip with a visit to take on the Guelph Storm at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, ON at 7:05 pm Friday night.