The Saginaw Spirit gave up four straight goals, suffering a 4-3 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Dow Event Center tonight, however, the Spirit may have suffered an even bigger loss after leading scorer Cole Coskey was helped off the ice in (what looked to be) excruciating pain after taking a puck, point-blank, off his knee late in the third period.
Late in the game, the Spirit had been clinging to a 3-2 lead when a give away in its own zone turned into a game-tying goal for Hamilton forward Isaac Nurse (cousin of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse) knotting the game at 3-goals apiece at 14:01 of the third period, just 32-seconds before Bulldogs' forward Arthur Kaliyev (10) scored the eventual game winner to make it a 4-3 game at the 14:33 mark of the final period.
Saginaw came out flying in the early going as forward Kyle Bollers (5) buried his fifth goal of the season with assists from Mason Kohn and Caleb Everett just a half a minute into the game for a 1-0 Spirit lead at the :30 mark of the opening period.
That early goal would also come with a cost for the Spirit, however, as one of Saginaw's top defensemen, Everett (shortly after assisting on Bollers' goal) would also head to the dressing room with an undisclosed injury early in the first period and did not return. The injury is particularly bad news for a depleted Spirit back end, which is just one game removed from losing another top defenseman, Brock Hill, with a shoulder injury.
Midway through the first period Saginaw forward Ryan Stepien (2) gave the Spirit a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the season from Ben Badalamenti and Aidan Prueter at 9:20 of the first period.
The Spirit continued with the pressure, extending its lead to 3-0 early in the second period when Coskey (13) scored his team-leading thirteenth goal of the season from Daniil Vertiy just 1:45 into the second period.
After a questionable Spirit holding penalty around the 5-minute mark of the second period, Hamilton would convert when forward Marion Studenic (8) scored the power play goal from Matthew Strome and Will Bitten, cutting into the Spirit lead (3-1) at 5:21 of the second period.
Following another pair of questionable penalties called on the Spirit, leading to a Bulldogs' 5 on 3 man-advantage in which the Spirit, in turn fought to kill off toward the end of the second and into the third period; the Spirit and Hamilton then traded penalties again early in the third period, before Studenic (9) scored his second goal of the night with an assist from Strome again to make it a 3-2 game at 3:50 of the third period.
Saginaw goal tender Evan Cormier turned away 38 of the 42 shots he would face while in net for the Spirit tonight.
Things will not get any easier for this hobbled Spirit team, as the No. 1 team (in not just the OHL, or the OHL's western conference) but the entire 60-team Canadian Hockey League, the Sarnia Sting pay a visit this Saturday for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center.