The Saginaw Spirit (1-1-1) skated to its first win of the 2017-18 Ontario Hockey League season in spectacular fashion behind goal tender Evan Cormier with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Ottawa 67's at the Dow Event Center tonight.
Saginaw first year head coach Troy Smith was relieved to put his first win in the books, while giving credit to his players after dropping a tough first game in the final minutes last Thursday, before losing a heart-breaking home opener to London in overtime a week ago.
“I'm happy for the kids, you know, because I don't think people realize how hard these kids have worked,” Smith told Spirit broadcaster Dom Papa following the game.
“You know it's tough to come back from an overtime loss with a week off, but I thought the way that we responded, especially in the first, was promising, and I'm very very excited for these guys to get their first win.”
Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) managed to turn away all 27 of Ottawa's shots on goal to earn his seventh career OHL shutout, and his first of this season.
Third year forward Cole Coskey (1) opened the Spirit scoring when he took a pass from Damien Giroux and stepped just inside the Ottawa blue line, using a defenseman as a screen with a low wrist shot through his legs to beat Ottawa goal tender Olivier LaFreniere on the stick-side for his first goal of the season and a 1-0 Saginaw lead at 8:15 of the opening period.
Midway through the first period, Jackson, MI native Blade Jenkins (Saginaw's No. 1 pick in the 2016 OHL priority selection draft) took a pass from Matthew Kreis along the half boards and into the Ottawa zone, where he sent a perfect saucer pass across the front of the net to Coskey (2) who easily buried the one-timer for his second goal of the night at 11:07 of the first period, giving the Spirit a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Following a scoreless second period, Harrison Township, MI native Ben Badalamenti (1) a rookie free agent for the Spirit, scored his first career OHL goal with assists coming from Danny Katic and Marcus Crawford at 5:33 of the third period, as the Spirit to a commanding 3-0 lead.
Giroux, Saginaw's leading rookie goal scorer from a year ago, capped off a 2-point night with his first goal of the season from Ryan Stepien and Tom Bappert at 8:22 of the final period to round out the scoring for a 4-0 Spirit lead.
Cormier made a bevy of spectacular saves tonight, including a breakaway save against two Ottawa skaters who had broken free while shorthanded, which was enough to earn Cormier the No. 1 star of the game, while his counterpart, LeFreniere was equally impressive, turning away 27 of the 31 shots he would face in goal for Ottawa tonight.
The Spirit (who now have 1-win, 1-loss, and 1-overtime loss this season) still have some work to do on special teams after failing to convert on any of its 6 power play opportunities tonight, which makes the Spirit 0 for 20 on power play chances this year.
Saginaw will now look to make it 2 wins in a row when the Guelph Storm (who also have 1-win, 1-loss, and 1-overtime loss) make a visit to downtown Saginaw for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center tomorrow evening.