The Saginaw Spirit (26-20-8-0) dominated the shots on goal by a 42-31 margin, however, a red hot Sarnia Sting (39-12-4-0) goal tender, Aidan Hughes, managed to completely shut down Saginaw's scoring opportunities as Sarnia held a 2-0 lead until late in the third period, when an empty net goal sealed a 3-0 shutout victory for the Sting in front of 3,790 faithful Spirit fans at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Despite the loss, Saginaw head coach Troy Smith was not disappointed with the effort from his young team, who have 3 wins in the 5 meetings this year with the Sting, who are currently in third place in the western conference standings behind the Soo, and Kitchener.
Smith is confident his team matches up quite well with the Sting, who may be a likely a first round playoff opponent for the Spirit.
“We had a lot of chances tonight, but we couldn't score,” Smith said in the post game interview. “You have to give (Aidan) Hughes credit, he played well. But, I think if we played that team over again, the same way, you know, and if we get a few more bounces then we're right in it, then maybe we'd win it.”
With just over 3-minutes left in regulation, and facing a 2-goal deficit, Smith pulled Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) for an extra attacker, and the Spirit nearly scored, but Sarnia RW Jordan Kyrou (30) gained possession of the puck and fired it into the empty net, sealing the victory (3-0) at 17:05 of the third period.
Sarnia had jumped out to an early lead early when former Peterborough star Jonathan Ang (21) opened up the scoring with his twenty-first goal of the season at 2:07 of the first period, as the Sting would carry a 1-0 lead throughout the remainder of the first period and into the first intermission.
Another recently acquired Sting player, defenseman Mitch Eliot (who recently left the Michigan State University hockey team after 2-seasons with the Spartans to join Sarnia on Feb. 9, in order to focus on a professional hockey career) wasted little time, scoring his first career OHL goal in just his third game with the Sting for a 2-0 lead at 1:37 of the second period.
Eliot is the son of Detroit Red Wings TV commentator Darren Eliot, a former NHL goal tender with the Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and Detroit Red Wings.
Cormier stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced in net for the Spirit tonight (the 1 other shot was on the empty net goal) while his counterpart, Hughes turned back all 42-Saginaw shots while in between the pipes for the Sting tonight.
The Spirit will head south on interstate 75 for the final installment of the 2017-18 Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup Series for a 7 pm face off against the Flint Firebirds at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint, MI tomorrow night.
Saginaw has already clinched this year's I-75 Divide Cup Series, winning 6 of the 7 meetings with the Firebirds this year, and will be looking to make it 7 of 8 tomorrow night.