In a game featuring 10 NHL drafted players (3 by the Detroit Red Wings) between the two teams, the Saginaw Spirit (16-21-3-0) managed to control the early pace, before ultimately losing a 5-3 decision to a stacked Kitchener Rangers (27-13-2-0) team with 6 NHL drafted players (including 2-first round, and 2-second round picks) in front of 3,021 at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Rangers LW Nick McHugh put the game out of reach with an empty-net goal at 16:32 of the third period for a 5-2 Kitchener lead, before Spirit forward Danny Katic (3) made the score seem a bit more respectable (5-3) scoring his third goal of the season in the final 28-seconds from Aidan Prueter at the 19:32 mark.
The Spirit had controlled the pace in the first period, out-shooting Kitchener 9-5 throughout the first 20-minutes, taking an early lead when Mason Kohn (11) buried his eleventh goal of the season less than 30-seconds into the game, with assists coming from Jake Goldowski and Brady Gilmour (a seventh round pick of the Red Wings in the 2017 NHL draft) to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead at the :29 mark of the first period.
A Spirit interference penalty just past the midway point of the first period led to a power play goal from Kitchener defenseman Logan Stanley (a first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, 18th overall, in the 2016 NHL draft) which tied the game at 1-goal apiece at 13:57 of the first period.
The Spirit answered with a power play goal later in the opening period when defenseman Keaton Middleton (a fourth round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL draft) fired a wrist shot through traffic from the left point, scoring his fourth goal of the season from Hayden Davis and Nicholas Porco at 16:35 of the first period for a 2-1 Spirit lead heading into the first intermission.
Kitchener managed to turn the tables in the next 20-minutes, out-shooting the Spirit 15-7 in the middle frame, while capitalizing on another Saginaw penalty when Givani Smith (a second round pick of the Red Wings in the 2016 NHL draft) scored a power play goal to tie the game at 2-goals apiece at 2:48 of the second period.
Rangers forward Adam Liska (10) would give Kitchener its first lead of the game (3-2) with his tenth goal of the season from Rickard Hugg at 12:48 of the second period, before former Flint Firebird Kole Sherwood (a 2015 free agent signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets) made it a 4-2 game with his fifteenth tally of the season with an assist from Adam Mascherin (a second round pick of the Florida Panthers, 38th overall, in the 2016 NHL draft) at 14:55 of the third period.
Kitchener made a difference on special teams, finishing 2 for 3 on its power play opportunities, while the Spirit converted on just 1 of its 5 power play chances.
Saginaw goal tender Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) turned away 24 of the 28 shots he faced in net for the Spirit, while his counterpart, Mario Culina stopped 20 of the 23 shots he saw between the pipes for Kitchener tonight.
After facing the top two teams in the OHL's western conference the past two games, the Spirit have an opportunity to gain some ground with a 2:05 pm face off against the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires (22-15-2-1) at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON tomorrow afternoon.
With a win tomorrow, the sixth place Spirit (45-points) could jump into a fourth place tie with London (47-points) and the Spitfires (47-points) in the western conference standings.
The Saginaw Spirit take the ice in the third period against the Kitchener Rangers: