It has often been said that even a bad win is still a win. That holds true in the OHL; where a win is still a win, and a win is also still worth two points in the OHL standings. The Saginaw Spirit improved to 1-win and 2-losses, earning their first win of this early OHL season with a 2-1 victory over the Erie Otters in front of 3,022 fans at the Dow Event Center Wednesday evening.
The Spirit played one period of great hockey, but seemed to fall back into some bad habits throughout the final two periods. If not for some amazing goal tending by Detroit Red Wing prospect, Jake Paterson; the Spirit could easily still be searching for that first win. “We were happy with the two points, but the way we went about it wasn’t the best,” said Spirit head coach Greg Gilbert. “Our first period was very good. We did a lot of the little things very well, and with a team like we have -a fairly young team- you know, when you get ahead two goals they tend to get away from the game plan and with the way we play that is going to be our challenge right now; to be mentally tougher. If it wasn’t for Jake (Paterson) tonight, we’re not even talking about two points.”
Saginaw’s off season veteran acquisitions continued to shine for the third straight game this year. Former Plymouth Whaler, Cody Payne (Dallas Stars draft pick) got the Spirit on the board just forty-seven seconds into the game when he took a Justin Kea (Buffalo Sabres draft pick) pass and found himself with an open shot, beating Erie Goalie, Oscar Dansk for his fifth goal of the season; which puts Payne in a tie for first place in the OHL for goals scored (second place in overall points, 5) with Kingston’s Darcy Greenaway. “I’ve really just been playing my game and I’m lucky to be playing with some really good line mates, I couldn’t ask for more,” said Payne. “(Nick) Moutrey did a nice job breaking out of the zone and got it to (Justin) Kea, and Kea drove the puck, then I just drove wide (like we’re supposed to do) and he made the play, just put it on my stick and I couldn’t have asked for a better pass, all I had to do was finish the play.”
Another veteran acquisition, Kristoff Kontos scored the eventual game winning goal at 2:07 of the second period when he re-directed a Brandon Prophet knuckle-ball shot from the point for his first goal of the season. The story of the night though, was -by far- the play of Spirit goalie, Jake Paterson. The 2012 third round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings turned away 41-of Erie’s-42 shots on goal Wednesday night to help the Spirit steal a victory. Paterson stopped 32-of-33 shots in the second and third periods combined. The one goal Paterson did give up was an Erie power play goal, after Paterson had lost his stick in the corner, and Erie left wing, Michael Curtis re-directed an Adam Pelech shot from the point.
“Obviously our first period was probably our strongest period of the game,” said Paterson. “Coach got after us and told us what we needed to work on, so we’ll be looking forward to playing better as a team over the next few weeks. But, all-in-all we were happy to get the win tonight and we’ll be looking to get our next one this weekend.”
The Spirit return to action Friday, as they travel to London, Ontario to play the defending OHL champions, the London Knights. The Spirit will then return to the Dow Event Center on Saturday September, 28 where they will host the North Bay Battalion. The puck will drop at 7:11 p.m. Saturday night. *The city of North Bay, Ontario is where the Saginaw Spirit franchise played (as the North Bay Centennials) before coming to Saginaw in 2002. North Bay took over the Brampton Battalion franchise beginning this year.