The Saginaw Spirit (10-6-1-1) got a late empty-net goal from D.J. Busdeker (6) at the 18:39 mark of the final period to preserve a 5-3 victory over the first place Soo Greyhounds (12-5-3-1) in a battle of two of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League's western conference in front of 3,047 at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw tonight.
The Spirit controlled the first period, jumping out to a 3-0 lead with 3 first period goals just 44-seconds apart, while adding a power play goal early in the second frame, before the Soo managed to turn the tables, completely dominating the Spirit throughout the final 40-minutes of play.
Saginaw would strike first, taking advantage of a Soo penalty midway through the first period when veteran forward Cole Coskey (9) redirected a Bode Wilde shot from the point, beating Soo goal tender Ethan Taylor for the power play goal with an additional assist coming from Brady Gilmour for a 1-0 Spirit lead at 11:16 of the first period.
Just 16-seconds later Saginaw defenseman Reilly Webb hit Spirit forward Aidan Prueter with a stretch pass, which allowed Prueter (3) to work behind the Soo defense, scoring on a breakaway for a 2-0 Saginaw lead at 11:32 of the second, before Spirit speedster (Soo native) Nicholas Porco (9) intercepted a pass in front of Taylor just 28-seconds following the Prueter goal, as Porco finished strong with a nice deke move for his ninth tally of the season at the 12-minute mark to give the Spirit a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Soo defenseman Jordan Sambrook (a fifth round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL draft) was whistled for a slashing penalty near the 4-minute mark of the middle frame, which led to Busdeker (5) scoring the first of his two goals tonight, a power play goal on a beautiful feed from Damien Giroux, as Mason Millman added the other assist for a 4-0 Spirit lead at the 6:00 mark of the second period.
The Greyhounds had replaced Taylor with Soo backup goal tender Mario Peccia to start the second period; who managed to stabilize the Soo defense with the exception of the power play goal to Busdeker early in the second, as the Spirit became increasingly flat, surrendering 3 unanswered goals, while getting out-shot 30-21 over the final forty minutes.
Soo RW Cole MacKay (7) put the Hounds on the board with his seventh tally of the season, cutting the Spirit lead to 4-1 near the end of the middle frame at 18:42 of the second period, while Greyhounds forward Barrett Hayton (8) followed with a power play goal, his eighth goal of the season to cut the Saginaw lead to 4-2 at 8:26 of the third, before veteran Soo forward Morgan Frost (13) made the Saginaw fans nervous when he snuck his thirteenth goal of the season past Spirit goal tender Ivan Prosvetov to make it a 4-3 game at 11:08 of the final period, prior to Busdeker's empty-net goal.
The Spirit will wrap up its 3 in 3 weekend with a visit to take on the Windsor Spitfires for a 4:05 pm face off at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON tomorrow afternoon.