The Saginaw Spirit battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the second period, scoring seven straight goals to route the Windsor Spitfires 8-3 in front of 3,972 fans at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw Saturday night.
After a flat opening period, the Spirit came out strong in the second, delivering some bone crushing checks -while at the same time picking up the pace of play- which caught the Spitfires a bit off guard. The change of pace had an adverse affect on Windsor goalie, Jaroslav Pavelka as he watched four second period goals nestle in the back of the net before he was replaced by backup, Jordan DeKort at the 16:49 mark of the second period.
“In the second period we came out and we got back into how we want to play; a little more physical and up-tempo game,” said Spirit coach Greg Gilbert. “You know, we capitalized on our opportunities; I mean, our guys were burying the grade-A chances we were given, and it was huge for us.”
With veteran’s Jake Paterson and Vincent Trocheck competing for their respective countries at the IIHF World Jr. Hockey Championship in Ufa, Russia; Spirit assistant captains, Eric Locke and Garret Ross stepped up big to fill the void. Ross banged home two goals and an assist; while Locke led the way for the Spirit with the coveted ‘Gordie Howe Hat-Trick’ scoring two goals, an assist, and also getting into a nice scrap with Windsor captain, Sav Posa.
“The credit goes to the guys in this dressing room –with the Sweaters on- they’re the ones who go out and do battle and found ways to win,” said coach Gilbert. “I mean, Eric Locke had an outstanding effort tonight, and had a fantastic game; and Garret Ross too, as well as a few other players; but, it was a good, solid team effort and we found a way to win.”
The young guys also used the opportunity for more playing time to showcase their talent and give Spirit fans a look at the future of this young hockey team. Jimmy Lodge chipped in with a goal and three assists and showed great chemistry with rookie line mate, Andrey Alexeev. Alexeev finished with just one assist (a beauty on Ross’ goal) but, it was what the first year forward from Moscow, Russia did without the puck Saturday night that was most impressive. If they ever added a ‘third-assist stat’ in Hockey, Alexeev is the type of player who would thrive in such a category. with some brilliant stick-handling skills, and nifty work on the defensive end, Alexeev will be fun to watch as he excels over the next four years here in Saginaw.
“Andrey (Alexeev) was good tonight, there’s no question, he played a good solid sixty minutes tonight, he was competing, he was battling for loose pucks, he was setting people up,” boasted Gilbert. “I mean, the play he made for Garret (Ross) on that backside one-timer, not a lot of guys make that play that quick; but that’s his ability, that’s his skill, and when he gets a little stronger and a little more experience he’s going to be a heck of a player; so, he’s capable of making those plays; I mean, Jimmy Lodge was outstanding tonight also; Jeremiah Addison, Dylan Sadowy; you know, all of those young guys were chipping in, they were competing, they were doing what was asked of them.”
Addison chipped in with a goal and an assist; while Nick Moutrey lit the red light twice for the Spirit. Nikita Serebryakov stopped 41-of the-44 shots he faced in between the pipes for the Spirit; which was more than sufficient for the rookie who is replacing possibly the top goalie in the entire OHL. The Spirit will head north to Sault Ste. Marie for a 4:00 p.m. New Years Eve game on Monday afternoon; then head to London, Ontario for a Friday January, 4 game against OHL powerhouse, the London Knights; before returning to Saginaw on January, 5 to host the Owen Sound Attack; and begin the first-of-seven straight home games. Until next year, we will be looking to see you down at the Dow….