Second year forward Damien Giroux cut the Saginaw Spirit (2-6-1-0) deficit to one goal late in the game, but failed to tie it up in a classic duel between two very impressive goal tenders, ultimately suffering a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Guelph Storm inside the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw, MI tonight.
Trailing 2-0 late in the third period, Spirit head coach Troy Smith pulled goal tender Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) for an extra attacker at the 17:20 mark of the third period.
Giroux (4) proved Guelph goal tender Anthony Popovich was in fact human, sneaking one past the talented net-minder for the extra-attacker goal, his fourth of the season from Keaton Middleton and Marcus Crawford at 18:32 of the third, cutting into Guelph's 2-1 lead, however, that's as close as the Spirit would get, only mustering one shot on goal in the final minute and a half.
Smith could have a legitimate argument for this game to have been tied 1-1 following Giroux's goal after the Spirit were whistled for a 'phantom' too many men on the ice penalty at the :50 mark of the first period.
Now, I'll be the first to admit I was never that great at math while in school; but the Spirit were penalized when it was the Storm, who seemingly had 7-men on the ice, leading to a Guelph power play goal from forward Isaac Ratcliffe (3) with assists coming from Nate Schnarr and Liam Hawel giving the Storm a 1-0 lead at 2:35 of the first period.
Midway through the second period, Ratcliffe (4) struck again with his second goal of the night (fourth of the season) with another assist from Schnarr at 10:22 of the second period for a 2-0 Storm lead, which would end up as the game-winning goal.
Popovich was the difference in the game, stopping 31 of the 32 shots he faced in goal for Guelph tonight, while Cormier was equally impressive for the Spirit, turning away 28 of the 30 shots he saw in between the Saginaw pipes tonight.
The Spirit will now have a quick turnaround with a visit from the OHL's No. 1 eastern conference team, the Peterborough Petes (8-3-0-1) in a late Sunday afternoon game at 5:30 pm tomorrow at the Dow Event Center.