Spirit swept by Greyhounds

despite elimination after four straight games the team looks forward to future with strong nucleus....

Posted In: Sports, Saginaw Spirit,   By: Jason Marcoux

06th April, 2015     0

Sometimes in sports, you can do everything right, like execute above and beyond the expectations and limitations of your team, and still end up on the losing end. The Saginaw Spirit were eliminated from the OHL playoffs after being swept by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in four straight games. The Spirit lost 5-2 in front of 3,088 fans at the Dow Event Center Thursday night, but the team played well above and well beyond their expectations and limitations.

The Spirit made history this year becoming the youngest Ontario Hockey League team to ever make the playoffs. In early January with the trade deadline approaching, Spirit management made the difficult but necessary decision to trade away many of their talented veterans in order to build for the future, a strategy Sault Ste. Marie had implemented just one year prior.

Sneaking in as a No.8 seed, the Spirit were matched with top-seed Sault Ste. Marie in the first round. The already talented Greyhounds, added a host of high value NHL draftees to their team at the trade deadline, creating one of the most dominating major junior hockey teams in the history of the Canadian Hockey League.

The goal of Spirit management is to turn its team into a version of the Greyhounds within the next two years, or possibly sooner. With the trades in early January, the Spirit now have the luxury of picking 5-of the first-41 picks at the OHL priority selection draft on Saturday April, 11 next week. Spirit head coach Greg Gilbert is proud of his young team and looking forward to the future.

“We're proud of them,” Gilbert said. “You know, in game one, game three, and game four, our guys competed but we just didn't have enough. And, against a team like the Soo, who obviously built it up late in the year and went out and got some key players to bolster what they already had, and they are a heck of a hockey club, you have to give them credit.”

“I thought we competed pretty hard, outside of (game 2) and that's all we asked our kids to do. It was a great experience for them, to play against a team like that. You know it's one of the strongest teams I've seen in years in major juniors. So, we're really proud of them, we battled hard but we just didn't have enough horses.”

The Spirit jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead after their two European import players scored early goals. Artem Artemov sniped a onetime snap-shot past Soo goalie Brandon Halverson at 7:54 of the first period, then Vladislav Kodola scored the second Spirit goal at 16:36 of the opening frame. The Spirit fought hard to hold their 2 goal lead, but simple mistakes cost the young team. Gilbert is hoping his team can learn to execute by focusing on playing the right way and paying attention to the small details.

“The smallest things -when they're done right- build up to help the big things happen and we have to realize that as a group,” said Gilbert. “The smallest things mean the most. The turnovers, bad passes, the missed passes are all important details. Like when we were on the power play and we were fumbling pucks all around, then when they kill it off, we end up taking a penalty.

“It's not the flash-and-dash or the stick handling and all the fancy stuff that wins championships, it's the 200 foot game and the commitment to being unselfish, and to being a player that sacrifices for the guy next to you, and to be a team that really excels at simplicity and excels at doing the little things well. That's where the Soo is now, they do little things well and their record is what it is for a reason, and that's because they play the right way and that's the type of team we want to become.”

Of all the young players on the Spirit roster, there is one veteran who played his last game in Saginaw. Jake Ringuette joined the Spirit after being selected No. 33 overall at the 2010 OHL priority selection draft. Ringuette had to battle for playing time early on in Saginaw under former coach Todd Watson, but when Gilbert took over the team he immediately inserted Ringuette into the lineup and the Gooderich, Ontario native has been playing ever since.

“It's a great example of what we want to be as an organization, he came in as a young man five years ago and had his ups and downs with limited ice time and opportunities, but he stuck with it and battled through thick and thin with us,” Gilbert said. “That's what we want to be, we want people who want to be here and that's who and what Jake is. He's a great kid, he's a great competitor, he hates to lose and that's why he was still here and we were very grateful to have him.”

Ringuette was the first player Gilbert talked to when the final seconds ticked off the clock, and his impact on -not only this Spirit team- but throughout the entire OHL family was evident as coaches and players from the Greyhounds team; along with the referees and linesmen all made it a point to shake his hand and give him some nice words as he moves into the next phase of his life.

“Saginaw and the OHL has been pretty much my whole life over the last five years,” said Ringuette. “I've become brothers with all the great guys I've played with here over the years. I really appreciate what the league and the Saginaw Spirit organization has done for me so far. It's been great and I really wish it didn't have to end.”




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