SAGINAW, Michigan - On Valentine's Day, the Saginaw Spirit (26-19-8-0) hosted the Soo Greyhounds (45-6-2-2) for a West Division matchup at The Dow Event Center. Saginaw opened up a 2-1 lead after the first period and a 3-1 lead after two frames. In the third stanza, the Greyhounds rebounded with four goals, three of which were unanswered. D.J. Busdeker scored with less than four minutes remaining to force overtime. In the extra period, Spirit netminder Evan Cormier stood tall and denied several quality chances from the Soo, necessitating a shootout to decide the winner. Cormier was perfect in the shootout (2-for-2) as Cole Coskey and Blade Jenkins scored, securing a 6-5 victory over the CHL's top-ranked team.
In the first period, the Spirit seized an early lead when Kyle Bollers lit the lamp on an odd-man rush, marking his 8th tally of the 2017-18 campaign. On the play, Ryan Stepien corralled the puck along the boards and raced toward the Greyhounds net, eventually centering to a waiting Bollers to give Saginaw a 1-0 lead with 14:28 remaining in the period. Now with a blueprint on how to score, the Soo marched down towards the Spirit net and executed a near-mirror play as Jack Kopacka fed Taylor Raddysh just 20 seconds later to tie the contest. Saginaw ended the period with a one-goal edge though, when Max Grondin tipped a Danny Katic shot from the end boards with 56 seconds remaining, sending the Spirit to the first intermission with a 2-1 lead. The Greyhounds outshot the Spirit 9-7 in the opening frame.
For the second period, special teams play was at a premium as the two squads incurred a total of 14 penalty minutes in the frame. During their second powerplay of the period, Saginaw extended its lead to two goals when Hayden Davis ripped a shot from near the blue line off of two Greyhounds defenders and into the net for his 4th goal of the season. Later in the period, Max Grondin was whistled for a suspicious 4:00 holding call, in which 3:40 carried over to the third period. In all, the Greyhounds recorded 12 shots in the period to the Spirit's nine.
Once the final frame began, the Soo set out on their powerplay, which turned into a 5-on-3 advantage, and manufactured a goal as Rasmus Sandin glided into the slot before peppering Cormier with a well-placed goal. Later in the third period, Spirit rookie Aidan Prueter won a puck battle along the boards and slid the puck to Blade Jenkins, who then flipped the puck stick-side for Saginaw's fourth goal of the game with 13:42 remaining in the period. Less than three minutes later, the Soo fashioned a rush that saw Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Boris Katchouk sag behind the Spirit defense and rifled a shot into the net, shrinking Saginaw's lead to one goal. Just 17 second later, the Soo dumped the puck into the Spirit zone before Hayden Verbeek released a spinning shot that found its way past Cormier to create a stalemate at four goals apiece. Continuing their third period surge, the Greyhounds took the lead with 6:21 remaining when Morgan Frost cleaned up a Soo missed shot and tucked the puck inside the near post. The Spirit responded, however, when Busdeker batted a Ryan Stepien shot into the Greyhounds' net to lock the score at 5-5. The Greyhounds continued to outshoot the Spirit and created an 18-7 edge in that department for the third period.
In the extra frame, several quality opportunities from the Soo were overshadowed by Cormier's readiness between the pipes for five minutes. The game was eventually decided in a shootout where Cole Coskey scored the penultimate goal before Jenkins secured the victory with his shootout goal.
Applebee's Three Stars of the Game
1. Blade Jenkins (SAG) – G, GWG
2. Hayden Davis (SAG) – G, +1
3. Morgan Frost (SSM) – G, A, +1
The Saginaw Spirit (26-19-8-0, 60 points, 3rd in West Division) host the Sarnia Sting (38-12-4-0) on Friday, February 16th, 2018 at The Dow Event Center.
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