Saginaw, MI. – The West Division leading Saginaw Spirit was unable to recover from five second period goals against in a 7-3 defeat to the Western Conference leading London Knights at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario Friday evening.
Saginaw and London split the season series with each team undefeated on home ice in the four matchups this season.
Just past the three-minute point of the opening period 2019 Saginaw Spirit second round pick Josh Bloom nearly put the Spirit ahead off an offensive zone face-off. Captain Damien Giroux won the face-off back to the rookie Bloom at the top of the right circle, where the rookie forward snapped a quick shot that was fought off by a London Knights goaltender Brett Brochu pad save.
Less than a minute later, the Knights tested Saginaw netminder Marshall Frappier with a couple scoring opportunities on their first two shots of the game. Minnesota Wild prospect Matvey Guskov broke into the Spirit zone and fought off a Saginaw defenseman to pull the puck between his legs to get a shot off. Frappier denied the shot with a pad save, but centerman Billy Moskal jumped on the rebound. Moskal sent the puck back towards the Spirit goal but the Spirit goaltender Frappier snagged it with his glove to keep the game scoreless.
Saginaw opened the scoring 5:35 into the first period on forward Danny Katic’s ninth goal of the season.
Overage defenseman Riley Webb ripped a shot from the right point that hit Saginaw forward Jake Goldowski in the slot. Katic pulled in the rebound and flipped a backhand over Brochu’s glove into the top shelf to give the Spirit the 1-0 lead.
Former London Knights draft pick Dalton Duhart extended the Saginaw Spirit lead 11:44 into the first period on his ninth goal of the season. Rookie T-Bone Codd grabbed the puck in the London corner and deked around a Knights defenseman to create space. Codd dumped the puck behind the net to centerman Camaryn Baber, who quickly reversed the flow with a pass into the London slot. Grand Blanc, Michigan native Duhart one-timed Baber’s pass into the open left-side of the Knights net to give Saginaw a 2-0 lead.
London responded 16:52 into the first period to cut the Saginaw lead to one-goal on Russian forward Guskov’s 11th goal of the season. Nathan Dunkley got a step on the Saginaw defense and flew down the ice on a breakaway. Dunkley tried to deke to his backhand, but Frappier stayed with the puck and denied the chance. Guskov, who followed the play, collected the rebound to the right of the Spirit net and quickly fired a turnaround shot. Frappier attempted to slide over for the rebound but was unable to get enough of the puck and it squeaked into the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game.
The Spirit outshot the Knights 13-10 in the opening frame and took the 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Saginaw opened the second period shorthanded after New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey was called for a tripping penalty late in the first. With 55 seconds left in Coskey’s minor, overager D.J. Busdeker was also charged with a tripping penalty to give the Knights a five-on-three power play. Just after Coskey’s penalty expired, Washington Capitals first round pick Connor McMichael tied the game 50 seconds into the second frame. McMichael received a pass from Dunkley in the right circle and the Ajax, Ontario native McMichael snapped a wrist shot over Frappier’s left shoulder to tie the game, 2-2.
London’s Dunkley gave the Knights their first lead of the game 7:07 into the second period on his 12th goal of the season. Defenseman Kirill Steklov sent a point-to-point pass over to Gerard Keane, who sent a wrist shot towards the Saginaw net. Dunkley, who provided a screen in front of Frappier, redirected the puck down from midair into the Spirit net to make it 3-2 London.
The Knights extended their lead to two goals just 33 seconds later with Columbus Blue Jackets signee Liam Foudy’s 20th goal on the season. The speedy Foudy poked the puck past a Spirit defenseman and flew down the ice with the Saginaw defense in pursuit. Before Frappier could get set, Foudy fired a shot short side over the Spirit netminder’s right shoulder.
Goaltender Tristan Lennox went into the game in relief of Frappier after the Foudy goal.
London made it a three-goal advantage 12:28 into the second period off a turnover at the Knights blueline.
Defenseman Steklov poked the puck off of a Spirit stick and came down the ice on a breakaway. Steklov deked to his backhand and slid the puck around Lennox’s pad to make it a 5-2 game.
After Lennox’s blade fell out of the goaltender’s skate, the Spirit goaltender pushed the net off the pegs to stop play and the referee called for a delay-of-game penalty. Frappier returned the the Spirit net after Lennox’s skate needed repairs and the Knights converted on the power play with San Jose Sharks first round pick Ryan Merkley’s 13th goal of the season. Merkley unleashed a slap shot from the right point through a screen in front of Frappier to make it a 6-2 game with 3:47 left in the second frame.
With just 1:58 left in the second period, Duhart stemmed the tide and cut the London lead back to three goals with his second goal of the game. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Mason Millman dumped the puck down to Carolina Hurricanes first round pick Ryan Suzuki the right corner. The London, Ontario native Suzuki centered the puck to Duhart in the Knights’ slot, where the Spirit forward lifted a shot that deflected off Brochu’s pad, off the post, and slid past the goal-line to make it a 6-3 game.
Despite the 6-3 London advantage, the Spirit led 25-22 in the shot department through two periods of play.
Off a turnover just after a face-off in the Spirit zone, the Knights regained the four-goal lead on Guskov’s second goal of the game. An errant Saginaw pass was corralled by Moskal, who centered a pass to the top of the circle. Guskov hammered a one-timer past Lennox’s glove to make it a 7-3 Knights advantage.
Saginaw had opportunities to cut into the London lead just past the midway point of the third period on a scramble in front of rookie goaltender Brett Brochu. Minnesota Wild prospect Giroux gained control of the puck behind the Knights’ net and centered a pass to Busdeker in the slot. Brochu blocked to Busdeker shot with a blocker save and the puck rebounded to defenseman Ilya Solovyov at the point. The Belarusian defenseman wound up and hammered a slapshot that was blocked by a sliding Knights defender in front of the goal to keep the Knights ahead by four goals.
Saginaw could not cut the London lead in the third period and the Knights ran out the clock for the 7-3 victory.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
Matvey Guskov (LDN) 2G +2Billy Moskal (LDN) 2A +1Kirill Steklov (LDN) G, A +1
Saginaw will look to rebound when they return home to The Dow Event Center Saturday, February 8 to host the Guelph Storm for the sixth annual Talk Today, Hope for Tomorrow Night presented by Barb Smith Suicide Resource and Response Network. The Spirit dropped the first three meetings of the season against the Storm, including a 3-2 shootout loss at The Dow Event Center in the last contest. There is a 7:05 p.m. puck drop for the teams fourth and final meeting of the season.
Prior to the game against the Storm, the Budweiser Red Room will feature a Local Area Mental Health Professionals Special Presentation in an attempt to bring awareness to mental health issues and help put an end to the stigma that surrounds them.
Fans can catch the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and www.wsgw.com with Art Lewis and the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” with host Charley Porter begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.
To purchase tickets to any Saginaw Spirit home game call (989) 497-7747, visit www.saginawspirit.com, or visit the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State Street, Saginaw MI.