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The Saginaw Spirit were back in action this weekend (Oct. 27-Oct. 29) for three games in three nights after splitting their last two games against the Windsor Spitfires (5-2 loss on Oct. 21) and the London Knights (6-4 win on Oct. 22).

Game Results

Oct. 27 vs Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: 5-4 Loss (Shootout) (4-4-0-1)
Oct. 28 vs Sarnia Sting: 3-1 Loss (4-5-0-1)
Oct. 29 @ Flint Firebirds: 5-3 Loss (4-6-0-1)

Oct. 27 vs. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

The Spirit welcomed in the Greyhounds for a Friday night matchup on Oct. 27. They came into the game with a 7-5 record and were led by numerous NHL draft picks, including Arttu Karki (2023 third-round pick of Las Vegas) and Andrew Gibson (2023 second-round pick of Detroit).

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The Spirit’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL) leading penalty kill was put to the test right off the bat when they took a penalty 19 seconds into the game. While the Spirit killed off the penalty and played solid, they also had a couple of shorthanded opportunities in the offensive zone but were stopped by Greyhound goalie Charlie Schenkel, who made a couple of good saves while his team was a man-up.

Saginaw Spirit Weekly (The Hockey Writers)

With the built momentum from the early penalty kill, the Spirit got themselves on the board with just under 12 minutes left in the first, with Michael Misa scoring his first five-on-five goal of the season. That was created off a turnover in the Greyhound zone and a nice pass from Hunter Haight to Misa in the slot to give the Spirit the 1-0 lead.

The Spirit lead would be short-lived, though, thanks to a Greyhound goal less than two minutes after Misa opened the scoring. Brendan Sirizzotti waited out the Spirit’s defense and made a nice move towards the net, beating goalie Nolan Lalonde with a sold shot over his shoulder to even the game at one apiece.

The Greyhounds would add on two more goals before the end of the first period, with Justin Cloutier benefiting from a nice pass from Connor Clattenburg, leading to a “mini” breakaway that Lalonde did not stand much of a chance on at with just over seven minutes left in the period. Kirill Kudryavstev then scored on a goal that Lalonde would likely want back after getting beat on a shot five-hole that was saveable. The Greyhounds took a 3-1 lead going into the second period.

The second period saw some back-and-forth goal scoring, with the Greyhounds extending their lead to three with a goal from captain Bryce McConnell-Barker off another shot that Lalonde probably wanted back. Newly acquired Spirit player Ethan Hay got his first goal in a Spirit uniform on a play that emulates the old saying, “Go to the net, and good things will happen.” Hay drove to the net for a cross-ice pass from Hunter Haight that tipped off Hay’s stick into the back of the net to get the Spirit back within two goals.

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The Spirit would then get themselves within one before the end of the second period with a goal from captain Braden Hache off a three-on-two rush with Valentin Zhugin and Misa. The third period would be an uneventful period until the last 30 or so seconds when Misa would once again find the back of the net, this time tying the game for the Spirit with five seconds remaining in regulation. The game would eventually end up in a shootout after a back-and-forth overtime period that saw neither team get any major scoring chances. In the shootout, the Greyhounds would get their game-winning goal off the stick of Sirizzotti, who scored on the first attempt of the shootout. The Spirit would go 0 for 3 in the shootout.

Oct. 28 vs. Sarnia Sting

The Spirit welcomed in the Sarnia Sting for the second time this season, having beat the Sting in the home opener 2-1 on Sept. 30.

The first period was much like the third period against the Greyhounds, as it was very uneventful outside of the Spirit being able to continue their hot streak on the penalty kill, having killed off the lone penalty they had in the period. Both team’s goaltenders looked solid to start the game, with both Lalonde and Sarnia’s Nick Surzycia stopping the seven shots each of them faced.

The scoring finally opened up after the halfway point of the second period, with the Sting breaking the deadlock with just under nine minutes left in the period. Florida Panthers prospect Sandis Vilmanis waited out the Spirit defense at the front of the net to beat Lalonde for a 1-0 Sting lead. Misa would continue his solid weekend for the Spirit, helping set up the game-tying goal for the Spirit with just over three minutes left in the period. He set up Matyas Sapovaliv on a nice give-and-go play in the neutral zone to spring Sapovaliv in for a nice shot over Surzycia’s shoulder. But this would be the end of the scoring for the Spirit.

Matyas Sapovaliv, Saginaw Spirit (Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

The third period would see the Sting take the lead when Jacob LeBlanc scored the eventual game-winner on the power play with just under seven minutes left in the game. The Sting also added an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach, pulling out the 3-1 win over the Spirit. In the loss, Lalonde looked as solid as he has in his time with the Spirit, making numerous big-time saves to keep the game close. He ended up saving 24 of the 26 shots that he faced. Surzycia was hands down the number one star of the game for Sarnia, stopping 27 of the 28 shots the Spirit put on him.

Oct. 29 @ Flint Firebirds

The Spirit looked to salvage a win on the weekend when they traveled to Flint to play the Firebirds for the second game of the I-75 Divide Cup on Oct. 29. But they ended up going 0-3 on the weekend with a 5-3 loss to the Firebirds.

Related: Saginaw Spirit Weekly: I-75 Divide Cup & Zhugin’s Hat Trick

The Spirit were badly outplayed by a Firebird team that showed more energy in the first period, thanks in part to having only played one game before facing off against the Spirit over the weekend. Before the halfway point of the period, the Spirit found themselves in a 2-0 hole, thanks to goals from Nolan Dann and Braeden Kressler. They were also held off the board shot-wise through over 12 minutes of play as well.

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Gavin Hayes pushed the Firebird lead to three with just over four minutes remaining in the period. The Spirit finally got on the board with less than 10 seconds remaining in the period, thanks to Michael Misa continuing his strong play, scoring off a tipped shot from Robert Mancini.

The second period saw both Misa and Hayes score once again for their respective teams while both teams played a back-and-forth period with chances from both sides. Hayes pushed the Firebirds’ lead to 4-1 off a nice pass from Flint captain Zacharie Giroux that led to a shot that Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Nolan Lalonde probably wanted back, as it was not the hardest shot to save. Misa tallied the lone power-play goal for the Spirit in the game (one-for-three on the game) thanks to good puck movement between himself, Calem Mangone, and Sapovaliv, leading to a slot chance that Misa buried.

The bright spot for the Spirit’s third period would be killing off a five-on-three that overlapped from the second period, holding the Firebirds to limited opportunities on the man advantage. Their penalty kill stayed hot once again, killing off all four-man advantages that the Firebirds had on the night. The period once again ended up being a back-and-forth played period, with Flint eventually adding an empty-net goal from Gioux with just under a minute left in the game to give the Firebirds a 5-3 victory over the Spirit. The game marked the first home win for the Firebirds on the season, while the Spirit ended the weekend with only one point out of a total of six possible points in their three games.

Looking Forward for the Spirit

The Spirit will return home for two games at the Dow Event Center on Nov. 2 against the Erie Otters before welcoming in the Mississauga Steelheads on Nov. 3.

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