SAGINAW, MI. – On Sunday night, the Saginaw Spirit (28-26-8-0) hosted the Eastern Conference's Sudbury Wolves (15-38-9-0) for the final edition of a four-game homestand at The Dow Event Center. In the opening frame, Saginaw snapped their offensive drought with a three-goal period and entered the second stanza with a 3-1 lead. During the second period, both clubs put a goal on the scoreboard as Damien Giroux guided a wrist shot past Wolves goaltender Jake McGrath and Sudbury's Drake Pilon responded with his 2nd goal of the contest. The third period saw an empty net goal from Cole Coskey, which put the game firmly out of reach at 5-2. With tonight's win, the Spirit secure a 2017-18 playoff berth, which marks the team's 12th postseason appearance in the last 13 seasons.
In the first period, the Spirit jumped to an early lead on account of a Cole Coskey goal. With 18:28 remaining in the frame, Coskey chipped the puck into the Sudbury net after a Marcus Crawford shot, marking his team-leading 25th goal of the 2017-18 campaign. Crawford also recorded his 50th point of the season on the play. Sudbury answered less than three minutes later when a Wolves' shot was pushed aside, fished out of the corner and sent to a waiting Pilon, who then fired the puck top shelf on a one-timer. With both teams on the scoreboard, D.J. Busdeker won a faceoff in the Wolves' zone as the puck matriculated to Hayden Davis.
The iron man defenseman, who has not missed a single game this season, fired the puck towards from the point and Ryan Stepien tipped the shot into the net to put the Spirit up 2-1 with 14:26 remaining in the period. To close the frame, Blade Jenkins crept towards the Wolves' net from the endboards and sent the puck through a narrow window with 9.6 seconds left to send the Spirit to the lockerroom with a 3-1 lead. Jenkins logged his 40th point of the year on the play, becoming the first Spirit rookie to reach the 40-point benchmark since the 2009-10 season. The Spirit outshot the Wolves 15-9 in the opening frame.
In a rowdy second period, both teams incurred a total of 36 penalty minutes. Before many of the gloves were dropped, Giroux picked up Saginaw's fourth goal of the game while shorthanded at the 16:08 mark with a blistering wrister sent into the net's bottom right corner. Sudbury retaliated- but this time on the scoresheet- with a goal on the very next shift. With 15:38 remaining, a slapshot from Peter Stratis was tipped into the Spirit net by Pilon, his second goal of the game. Pilon's goal came on the powerplay, snapping a Spirit streak of 17 consecutive successfully killed penalties. Saginaw ended the period with a 4-2 lead as both teams registered nine shots apiece in the frame.
During the final frame, tempers cooled as both teams played a more composed brand of hockey. The period's long goal came from Coskey on an empty net opportunity. The Spirit were determined to end the club's six-game skid and accomplished just that with a 5-2 playoff-clinching victory over the Wolves. Sudbury outshot Saginaw by a 14-12 margin in the third period.
Story courtesy of Saginaw Spirit.
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