The Saginaw Spirit dropped a 3-2 decision to the visiting North Bay Battallion in front of 3,276 fans at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Despite tonight's loss, the Spirit (53 points) did not lose any ground in the Ontario Hockey League standings and remain five points behind the Sarnia Sting (58 points) who have dropped its last five games; which include a 6-5 loss to the Spirit on Monday afternoon, a 6-5 loss to the Soo Greyhounds last night, and 2 losses (7-5 last Saturday and 6-3 tonight) to the Flint Firebirds.
North Bay jumped out to an early lead when left wing Brad Chenier (6) managed to beat Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier after cleaning up a rebound off the shot of right wing Andy Baker for a 1-0 lead at 5:51 of the first period.
The Spirit would respond when Brady Gilmour (24) took a nice circle-to-circle pass from Detroit Red Wing prospect Filip Hronek and beat North Bay goal tender Brent Moran to tie the game at 1 goal apiece at 17:14 of the first period. Spirit rookie Damien Giroux also assisted on the Gilmour goal.
The Battallion responded just over a minute later when right wing Justin Brazeau (19) scored his nineteenth of the season at 18:30 to give his team a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Following a late charging penalty to Spirit forward Hayden Hodgson at 19:55 of the second period, Brazeau (20) would light the lamp again, this time with a power play goal for the eventual game-winner, giving North Bay a 3-1 lead just 1:41 into the third period.
Overage forward Kris Bennett (21) knocked a rebound out of mid-air, beating Moran to bring the Spirit to within one goal (3-2) of the Battallion with just over 90 seconds left in regulation at 18:29 of the third period. Hodgson and Hronek assisted on the Bennett goal.
Head coach Spencer Carbery pulled Cormier for the extra attacker in an attempt to tie the game, however time would run out, ending with a 3-2 Spirit loss.
Cormier managed to turn away 24 of the 27 shots he would face in between the pipes for the Spirit tonight.
The Spirit will look to gain some ground in the I-75 Divide Cup Series when it returns to the Dow Event Center to host the Flint Firebirds for a 4 pm face off tomorrow afternoon.
With two games left in the 2016-17 I-75 Divide Cup Series, the Firebirds' currently hold a 4-2 lead in the rivalry series. The Spirit can only hope to tie the series with a win tomorrow, followed by another win on Mar. 8, at the Dort Federal Event Center.
After joining the OHL for the 2002-03 campaign, the Spirit would only fail to make the playoffs in its first 3 seasons (02-03,03-04, and 04-05) of existence, before going on to qualify for its next 11 post seasons.
The Spirit now have just 9 games to make up 5 points on Sarnia for the eighth and final western conference playoff spot to avoid being the first Saginaw Spirit team since the 2004-05 season to not make the playoffs.