Erie, PA. – The Saginaw Spirit extended their winning streak to a season-high seven games with a 4-3 triumph against the Erie Otters on Sunday afternoon at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Spirit extended their West Division lead to five points with just six games remaining in the regular season.
Top 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti led the Spirit offensively with a goal and two assists in the victory over the Otters, which extended the forward’s point streak to a career-high 12 games.
Strong goaltending was the story in the first period as goaltender Tristan Lennox of the Saginaw Spirit and Erie Otters’ Daniel Murphy kept their team in the game to start the game.
Saginaw had some trouble on the first shift of the period and Spirit netminder Tristan Lennox needed to make an early point blank save to keep the game scoreless. Right-winger Daniel D’Amato took the puck away from a Spirit player and slid a pass over to 2020 NHL Draft prospect Brendan Hoffmann in the neutral zone. Hoffmann attempted to split the Saginaw defense but lost control of the puck before he regained possession to the right of the Spirit crease, where the Erie forward unleashed a wrist shot. The Saginaw goalie Lennox stood at the top of the crease to cut down the angle of the Hoffmann shot and made the blocker save just over 30 seconds into the opening frame.
Spirit captain Damien Giroux nearly opened scoring just past the four-minute point of the first period. Dexter, Michigan native D.J. Busdeker took the puck away from an Erie forward in the Saginaw high-slot and Giroux with a stretch pass behind the Otters defense in the neutral zone. The Minnesota Wild prospect came down on Erie goaltender Daniel Murphy and quickly faked a shot before he snapped a shot that just flew wide of the left post.
Otters left-winger Brendan Sellan opened the scoring for Erie 9:47 into the first period with his 13th goal of the season. D’Amato entered the Spirit zone down the left-wing on a two-on-one rush and drew the Saginaw defenseman’s attention at the left half-wall. D’Amato chipped a pass to Sellan in the center of the Saginaw zone, which sent the Erie forward on a mini breakaway. Sellan faked a shot to force Lennox to go down and chipped the puck over the Saginaw goaltender’s right shoulder to give Erie the 1-0 lead just before the midway point of the opening period.
With Saginaw forward Danny Katic in the penalty box, North American third ranked 2020 NHL Draft prospect Jamie Drysdale nearly extended Erie’s lead off strong puck movement in the Saginaw zone. The goal-scorer Sellan received a pass at the left half-wall of the Spirit zone and reversed the flow of traffic with a cross ice pass to the top of the right face-off circle. The defenseman Drysdale unleashed a low wrist shot that Lennox was able to slide over and make a left-pad save to keep the Spirit within a goal just shy of the 17-minute mark of the first period.
Saginaw was unable to put the puck behind Murphy in the first period and Erie went into the locker room ahead, 1-0.
After the linesmen washed out an icing call on a neutral zone dump-in from New York Islanders prospect Cole Coskey, the puck bounced into the Erie slot. Top NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti jumped on the loose puck and the Spirit leading scorer slapped the puck back towards the net and Murphy was forced to make a pad save to keep the Otters ahead by a goal.
Danny Katic forced Erie to take a penalty after the Saginaw forward got a step on the 2019 Erie Otters first round pick Connor Lockhart. Katic used his speed to go wide right around the rookie defenseman and protected the puck with one-hand on the stick to make Lockhart pull the Spirit forward to the ice.
While on the man-power advantage, Zion, Illinois native Cole Coskey brought the Spirit back even with his 34th goal of the season. Cole Perfetti hit the Erie zone with speed on a three-on-two rush and slowed up, which allowed the play to develop and to give his teammates a chance to join the rush. Perfetti sent a cross ice pass to the trailer Coskey and the right-winger sniped a wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle that beat Murphy over the right shoulder off the crossbar, down into the Erie net to tie the game, 1-1.
With the assist, Perfetti extended his point streak to 12 games, which tied his career-high point streak from earlier this season.
Just past the midway point of the second period, Erie defenseman Drew Hunter tripped up Perfetti behind the Otters net, which gave Saginaw their second man-power advantage.
For the second time in the middle frame, the Spirit converted on a power play to give Saginaw a 2-1 lead 13:19 into the second period with captain Damien Giroux’s 44th goal of the season. The Hanmer, Ontario native Giroux kept the play alive in the slot, while on one knee in the slot and slapped the loose puck over to Perfetti at the right circle. Giroux got back to his feet and Perfetti sent a backdoor pass to the 2018 Minnesota Wild fifth round pick Giroux to redirect into the open left-half of the Erie net to give Saginaw the lead.
After Camaryn Baber was charged for hooking Mathew MacDougall, who was on a breakaway, the Erie forward was awarded with a penalty shot. On the penalty shot, MacDougall began to lose control of the puck after he attempted a deke and the puck started to bounce.
MacDougall tried to flip the puck over Lennox, but the Saginaw denied the attempt with a left shoulder save.
After Saginaw was penalized for too-many-men and Erie was charged for a bench minor on the same play, the teams skated four-on-four for the final 1:52 of the second period of play.
While four-on-four, Saginaw took a 3-1 lead on Spirit single season points record holder Cole Perfetti’s 37th goal of the season. Carolina Hurricanes signee Ryan Suzuki entered the Otters zone on a three-on-two rush and stopped at the top of the left face-off circle. Suzuki sent a pass to Perfetti at the center point and the Whitby, Ontario native sniped a wrist shot in the high slot over Murphy’s right shoulder to extend the Spirit lead to two goals with just 1:27 left in the second period.
Saginaw controlled play in the second period and outshot the Otters, 17-10 in the middle frame.
The Otters came out hard to start the third period and Erie leading goal scorer Chad Yetman notched his 43rd goal of the season to bring the Otters within a goal just 1:51 into the final frame.
Yetman used his speed to get around a Spirit defenseman and cut to the Saginaw net from the right-wing. The Erie forward protected the puck with his left side and slid the puck under a sliding Lennox’s pad to make it a 3-2 game.
Just 1:40 later, forward Danil Antropov regained the two-goal lead for the Saginaw Spirit with his 12th goal of the season. Thornhurst, Pennsylvania native Jake Goldowski poked the puck off an Erie stick into the air and the Saginaw forward knocked it down to his stick at the right circle of the Otters end. Goldowski slid a pass over to the right face-off circle, where Antropov one-timed the puck over the stacked pads of a sliding Daniel Murphy for the 4-2 Saginaw advantage 3:31 into the third frame.
At the 7:36 point of the third period, Saginaw goaltender Tristan Lennox was called for a tripping penalty, which put Erie on a man-power advantage served by Goldowski. After Saginaw lost a puck battle at the right half wall in the defensive zone, Otters forward Kyen Sopa centered a pass from the right corner to the Spirit slot. 2020 NHL Draft prospect Hayden Fowler one-timed the puck past the Lennox blocker to again bring the Otters back to within a goal at 9:05 of the third period.
Defenseman Mitchell Smith was charged with a tripping penalty with 4:19 left in regulation to give the Otters a man-power advantage for a chance to tie the game late in the third period. Lennox came up big on a redirection from Yetman on the power play, off a point shot from Drysdale at the center point and Saginaw was able to clear the rebound down the ice.
With just 23 second left in regulation, Lennox again was forced to make a save with Erie swarming in front of the 17-year old netminder. Brendan Hoffmann one-timed a sharp angle shot that Lennox slid over and fought off with a shoulder save and cover up for a whistle. The Spirit was able to run out the rest of the clock to win their seventh straight victory, 4-3.
Applebee’s Three Stars of the Game:
1. Cole Perfetti (SAG) G, 2A
2. Austen Swankler (ER) 2A
3. Cole Coskey (SAG) G, A
The Saginaw Spirit finish up the four-game road swing Thursday, March 12 against the West Division rival Windsor Spitfires for the seventh of eight regular season meetings. Puck drop from the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario starts at 7:05 p.m.
Saginaw was defeated 5-3 in the last game at the WFCU Centre, but they are 3-3-0-0 this season against the archrival Spitfires.
Fans can catch all the action on the flagship WSGW Newsradio 100.5 FM and www.wsgw.com with the voice of Saginaw Spirit hockey Joey Battaino on the call. “Countdown to Face-off” begins 15 minutes prior to puck drop.
Fans can visit the Buffalo Wild Wings location at 2690 Tittabawassee Road in Saginaw and join the official “Watch Party” for all Spirit away games. Admission is free of charge.
The Spirit return home Friday, March 13 to finish the season series against the Erie Otters for Billet Appreciation Night at The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan, the team will honor the Billet families that look after the players throughout the season. Puck drop for the team’s final meeting of the season begins at 7:05 p.m.
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.