The Saginaw Spirit (7-4-1-1) killed off 3 third period penalties (2 back to back) to force overtime, then killed off another late penalty near the end of OT, before eventually suffering a 3-2 shootout loss to the Niagara Ice Dogs (8-4-2-0) in a pink-out game for breast cancer awareness in front of 3,094 at the Dow Event Center in downtown Saginaw tonight.
Niagara RW Bradey Johnson beat Spirit goal tender Cam Lamour, scoring the final shootout goal to give the Ice Dogs the 2-0 shootout advantage after his teammate Akil Thomas had scored on the first shootout attempt, while both Spirit shooters were stopped by Niagara goal tender Stephen Dhillon.
Saginaw was whistled for a questionable high sticking call at 7:19 of the third period, then with 10-seconds remaining in that penalty, the Spirit picked up an unintentional delay of game penalty when the puck was sent over the half-board glass on a clearing attempt inside the Saginaw zone, however, the Spirit managed to kill off the back-to-back minor's, before killing off another questionable penalty on a check-to-the-head call with just 1:31 left in overtime, which eventually forced the shootout.
Niagara jumped out to an early 2-0 lead when Jonah De Simone (2) beat Spirit starting goal tender Ivan Prosvetov for a 1-0 Ice Dogs lead at 2:43 of the opening frame, before Thomas (who had also scored in the shootout) followed with his seventh goal of the season for a 2-0 Niagara lead at 6:34 of the first period.
Momentum began to swing back toward Saginaw early in the middle frame after a Niagara goal (for a potential 3-0 lead) prompted Spirit head coach Troy Smith to pull Prosvetov in favor of Lamour at the 2:16 mark, however, the goal was eventually reviewed and ultimately overturned following a missed off-sides call by the linesman, as Smith decided to keep Lamour in the game.
The Spirit would build on the sudden momentum swing less than 2-minutes later when over age Saginaw forward Albert Michnac (8) extended his league-leading consecutive points streak to 13-games, scoring his eighth goal of the season with an assist coming from Brady Gilmour to cut the Niagara lead to 2-1 at 3:15 of the second period.
Following a cross checking penalty to Ice Dogs defenseman Daniel Bukak just past the 4-minute mark, Michnac returned the favor, setting up Gilmour (5) on a power play goal with an additional assist coming from Nicholas Porco, which knotted the game at 2-goals apiece at 5:52 of the second period.
Dhillon stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced in net for the Ice Dogs, while Prosvetov turned away 14 of the 16 shots he saw during his 22:16 between the pipes for the Spirit, before he was replaced by Lamour, who was very impressive, stopping all 15 of the shots he faced throughout the final 42:44 of regulation in net for Saginaw prior to the shootout.
Despite tonight's shootout loss, the tie still earned the Spirit 1-point in the OHL standings for a season total of 16-points; which creates a four-way tie for third place in the western conference standings between Guelph, London, Kitchener, and Saginaw, behind the first place Soo Greyhounds (22-points) and the Owen Sound Attack (17-points) in third place.
The Spirit will finish out the weekend with a trip over the Blue Water Bridge for an important road game against the Sarnia Sting (5-6-1-0) at 2:05 pm at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, ON tomorrow afternoon.