The 2017-18 Saginaw Spirit (officially the youngest team in the Ontario Hockey League, with an average age of 17 years and 2-month's) looked very good against the defending memorial champion Windsor Spitfires on the road in the season opener, despite a gut-wrenching 3-1 loss at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON tonight.
With the game tied at 1-goal apiece and just over 2-minutes left in regulation, the Spirit were hit with a 'homer-call' after the referee whistled the Spirit for a questionable goal tender interference penalty, giving the Spitfires a power play late in the third period.
Windsor forward Luke Kutkevicius (1) wasted little time scoring the game winner, a power play goal with assists from Aaron Luchuk and Jake Smith at 18:12 of the third period, before Smith (1) followed with an empty net insurance goal at 18:48 of the final period.
Earlier in the game, after Spirit forward D.J. Busdeker was whistled for a 10-minute mouth guard misconduct, Saginaw overage defenseman Marcus Crawford (1) put the Spirit on the board with his first goal of the season (while shorthanded) when he sent a rocket past Windsor goal tender Michael DiPietro for a 1-0 Spirit lead at 14:29 of the first period with assists coming from Matthew Kreis and either Max Grondin or Caleb Everett.
Everett (who wears No. 8) was credited with an assist on Crawford's goal in the official score sheet, however, he was not even in the game at the time due to an injury, and Spirit radio announcer Joey Battaino felt it was Grondin (who wears No. 18) who should have been credited with the assist, which is a testament to the officiating in this game. We will keep you updated if the official score sheet changes.
Shortly after the Crawford goal, Saginaw third year forward Brady Gilmour (a seventh round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 NHL draft) had a goal waved off after the Spirit were called for too many men on the ice with just over 2-minutes to play in the opening period, however, the Spitfires would also have a goal waved off after it was determined a Windsor player had kicked at the puck just seconds later, sending the Spirit into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Windsor managed to tie the game at 1-goal apiece midway through the second period when right wing Luke Boka (1) scored his first goal of the season with assists from Austin McEneny and Mathew MacDougall at 12:36 of the middle frame.
Saginaw overage goal tender Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) turned away 32 of the 34 shots he faced between the pipes for the Spirit tonight.
DiPietro stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced in net for Windsor.
The Spirit will now look to get back on track when it welcomes the London Knights for a 7:05 pm face off Saturday night in the 2017-18 home opener at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw.