The Saginaw Spirit (2-0) improved to 2-0 in the 2018 OHL Pre-Season Showcase Tournament, battling back from a 3-1 deficit after one period of play with 3 second period goals and an insurance goal in the third for a 5-4 victory over tournament host Kitchener Rangers at the Kitchener Auditorium in Kitchener, ON tonight.
The Spirit had jumped out to an early lead when 2017 second round OHL priority selection pick Aidan Prueter (1) scored with assists coming from Saginaw defenseman Hayden Davis and forward Cole Coskey for a 1-0 lead at 5:11 of the opening period, however, the Rangers responded quickly with a goal just 7-seconds later when Kitchener forward Greg Meireles (1) managed to sneak one past Spirit rookie goal tender Tristan Lennox with an assist from Riley Damiani to tie the game at 1-goal apiece at 5:18 of the first period.
Kitchener pulled ahead midway through the first period when third year forward Eric Guest (2) scored his second goal of the pre-season with assists coming from Rickard Hugg and Joseph Garreffa for a 2-1 Rangers lead at the 10:00 mark, before Rangers veteran Nick McHugh (1) scored his first goal of the pre-season with assists coming from Donovan Sebrango and Meireles with 8-seconds to play in the period at the 19:52 mark for a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Saginaw would take advantage of an early 2-minute hooking penalty by Meireles at 2:35 of the second when second year Spirit forward Ryan Stepien (1) buried a power play goal with assists coming from Saginaw defensive duo Keaton Middleton (a fourth round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who was invited to San Jose Sharks camp as a free agent this summer) and Reilly Webb (a sixth round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 NHL draft) to cut the Kitchener lead to 3-2 at 4:21 of the second period.
The Spirit tied the game on another power play goal midway through the middle frame when veteran forward Damien Giroux (a fifth round pick of the Minnesota Wild in the 2018 NHL draft) beat Kitchener goal tender Lucas Pfeil for a power play goal with assists from Saginaw's No. 1 pick in the 2018 OHL priority selection draft Cole Perfetti and newly acquired forward Albert Michnac to tie the game at 3-goals apiece at 11:44 of the second period, before Prueter (2) buried his second of the night with an assist coming from second year Saginaw forward Jake Goldowski for a 4-3 Spirit lead at 13:01 of the second period.
Goldowski (1) would score the eventual game-winner early in the final frame with an assist from Giroux for a 5-3 Saginaw lead at 5:07 of the third, before Rangers defenseman Jack York (1) made it a one goal game with his first goal of the pre-season with assists coming from Kitchener forward Jonathan Yantsis and rookie Reid Valade, cutting the Spirit lead to 5-4 at 10:16 of the third period.
Lennox, Saginaw's highly-touted rookie goal tender, looked good in his OHL debut, turning away 22 of the 26 shots he would face between the pipes for the Spirit tonight, while his counterpart, Pfeil, stopped 33 of the 38 shots he saw in net for the Rangers.
The Spirit will wrap up the 2018 OHL Pre-Season Showcase Tournament with a CHL crossover matchup against the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at 11 am inside the Kitchener Auditorium in Kitchener, ON tomorrow afternoon, before returning for the pre-season home opener against the Flint Firebirds on Saturday Sep. 15, at 7:05 pm at the Dow Event Center two weeks from tonight.