Sault Ste. Marie, ON:
The Saginaw Spirit (40-15-2-3) find themselves in unfamiliar territory sitting atop the Ontario Hockey League's West division (tied for second in the entire western conference) following a 5-3 victory over the Soo Greyhounds (39-14-6-1) in front of 4,080 at GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie, ON tonight.
The Spirit (85-points) are tied with the Soo (85-points) in the standings, but earn the top spot in a tie-breaker by having a better head-to-head season record (4-2) against the Greyhounds.
With the exception of relenting a pair of late Soo goals (Cole McKay at 18:09 of the third, and Robert Calisti at 19:48) which cut the Saginaw lead to 5-3 in the final 2-minutes of the third period, the Spirit pretty much dominated its division rivals tonight, scoring five unanswered goals after falling behind early when Greyhounds' Zack Trott (9) scored to give the Soo a 1-0 lead at 2:38 of the first period.
The Spirit answered the early Soo goal later in the opening frame when Albert Michnac (17) knotted the game at 1-goal apiece with assists coming from Soo native Camaryn Baber and Jake Goldowski at 16:40 of the first period, while Brady Gilmour (13) followed with his thirteenth of the season from another Soo native, Nicholas Porco and Michnac at 18:22 of the first period, sending the Spirit into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Saginaw would take advantage of a Soo slashing penalty midway through the second when Spirit captain Damien Giroux (26) scored a power play goal from Owen Tippett and Bode Wilde for a 3-1 lead at 7:18 of the second period, before Porco (20) came through with the knockout punch, scoring his twentieth goal of the season with an assist from Gilmour to give the Spirit a 4-1 lead at 18:39 of the second period.
Spirit defenseman Reagan O'Grady (9) capped the Saginaw scoring early in the final frame with his ninth goal of the season from Tippett and Cole Perfetti for a 5-1 lead at 1:20 of the third period.
Soo goal tender Matthew Villalta stopped 24 of the 29 shots he would face in net for the Greyhounds, while Saginaw goal tender Ivan Prosvetov turned away 20 of the 23 shots he saw in between the pipes for the Spirit.
The Spirit will return home this weekend to play host the Kingston Frontenacs for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center on Saturday night.