The Saginaw Spirit jumped out to a bit of a slow start, but finished very strong with the help of some brilliant goal tending by Jake Paterson (Detroit Red Wings third round pick, 2012 NHL draft) as the Spirit blanked the visiting Sudbury Wolves 5-0 in front of 3,024 fans for the first home game of the 2012-13 OHL season at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw Thursday night. The Spirit earned their first victory of the season and improved to 1-1-1-0 in the OHL standings. Flint, Mi native, American Women’s Boxing Gold Medalist from this past summer’s Olympic Games in London, Clareesa Shields was on hand to kick off the 2012-13 season as she dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off at Wendler Arena.
The Spirit started out a little flat, but Paterson was impressive between the pipes, putting on a show for his future NHL team. Former Red Wing players, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood (now working in the Red Wings front office) were instrumental in drafting Paterson. The pair made the hour-and-a-half drive up I75 to Saginaw Thursday evening to keep tabs on their 2012 third round NHL draft pick; Paterson did not disappoint. Paterson turned away all eleven Sudbury shots in the first period, and another sixteen shots in the second, for a two-period total of twenty-seven saves; while the Spirit only managed one goal in the first period and one in the second. Paterson gave his Spirit teammates enough of a cushion (through two periods) allowing the offense to come back and dominate in the final period, scoring three power play goals while holding Sudbury to just three shots on Paterson in the third period.
“It was definitely a big win for us, but I think Jake Paterson saved our Bacon early,” said Spirit Head Coach Greg Gilbert. “We were on our heels and they came at us hard; you know, it’s something we’re going to have to overcome as a group and we have got to have better starts; I mean, we have to learn how to jump on teams early, and we have got to play that way for sixty minutes. But, we found our way, and Jake (Paterson) held us in there and gave us the opportunity to win, and then we were able to bury a few (goals) late.”
Assistant captain, Eric Locke paced the Spirit offensively Thursday evening, scoring two goals; while team captain, Vincent Trocheck and Andrey Alexeev (a rookie Spirit winger from Moscow, Russia) pitched in with respective two-point nights (proving the two line mates are working well together early in the season) as they each recorded a goal and an assist Thursday night. Alexeev, -who was acquired in the off-season via the OHL import draft- has worked his way up to the top line, but he is still trying to get used to the hard hitting, fast pace of OHL hockey. “Andrey (Alexeev) is going to have opportunities to put up points,” said Coach Gilbert. “He still has to get up to speed, you can start to see him tail off once the game goes on, but once he gets into shape, he’s going to be a heck of a hockey player; he’s very smart, he’s got great vision, and soft hands; so, he’s going to be a great part of our hockey club.”
The Spirit scored three power play goals in the third period to put the game out of reach and secure the 5-0 victory. Locke scored two goals for the Spirit, while Trocheck, Alexeev, and Justin Kea all added single tallies. Spirit defenseman, Grant Webermin chipped in with two assists. Paterson stopped all 30- of the-30 Sudbury shots on goal, earning the shutout for the Spirit. The Spirit will be back in action at the Dow Event Center on Saturday night as they host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for an OHL western conference, west division showdown; faceoff is set for 7:11 p.m. and as usual, we will be looking forward to seeing you down at the Dow….