Guelph, Ont. – Six different Firebirds’ scored goals in the Firebirds’ overtime victory over the Guelph Storm Friday night. Jalen Smereck lit-the-lamp just 35 seconds into the extra frame to secure the possible two points in front of more than 4,300 fans at the Sleeman Centre. Rookie netminder Luke Cavallin made 36 saves on 41 shots in a busy night between the pipes. Flint improved their record to 6-1-1-0 over Guelph in the past two seasons.
The Firebirds struck first 1:38 into the contest when Ty Dellandrea carried the puck into the offensive zone on a three-on-two rush and dropped it back to Connor Roberts. Roberts fired a shot on goal and the initial save was made. The rebound sat just outside the crease to the left of netminder Anthony Popovich. Dellandrea took a swing at it to no avail before Maurizio Colella roofed it top-shelf for his 20th goal of the season.
Just 52 seconds later, Jake Durham found paydirt for his eighth of the season, assisted by Zack Pilon and Ethan Keppen. Keppen made the pass to Pilon, who fired a shot from the right-wing side. The shot sailed wide of the cage and bounced back to the left-wing side of the zone. Durham gathered the loose puck along the boards and skated into the left circle, where he fired a shot that beat Popovich short-side, top-shelf over his right shoulder.
At the 7:28 mark of the opening frame the Firebirds’ top line would strike again. Dellandrea made a circle-to-circle pass over to Roberts on the right-wing side. As the netminder Popovich committed to his left to take away the one-timer opportunity, Roberts sent the puck back to Dellandrea back-door. Dellandrea tapped it home for his team-leading 24th of the season. Roberts and Colella earned the assists.
The Storm’s rookie netminder Nico Daws relieved the starter Popovich after Flint scored three goals on their first six shots of the game.
With under a minute to play in the first, Guelph cut their deficit to two. Keegan Stevenson took a hit in the Firebirds’ left-wing corner before breaking free toward the net. He found enough room as he crossed into the slot to slide a backhander five-hole, for his third goal of the season at 19:13. There was no assist on the play.
After 20 action-packed minutes of play, the Firebirds held a 3 – 1 lead. Shots on goal favored the Storm 15 – 12. Both teams were unsuccessful with one opportunity on the man-advantage.
Identical to the first period, Flint would strike at 1:38 of the middle frame as well. Durham crossed the blue line into the offensive end just in front of the Firebirds’ bench. He made a short pass to spring Nikita Alexandrov free. Alexandrov walked to the top of the left-wing circle and fired a high shot on net. Keppen showed tremendous hand-eye coordination and managed to deflect the puck past Daws for his eighth of the campaign. The goal was briefly reviewed for a possible high stick, but the officials deemed it a good goal. Flint led 4-1.
At the 4:57 mark of the middle stanza, C.J. Clarke fired a screened shot between the legs of teammate Max Kislinger from just inside the blue line. It appeared that the screen interfered with Daws’ ability to square up on the shooter. The goaltender made contact with his glove, but it wasn’t enough to stop the puck from crossing the goal line behind him. The unassisted goal was Clarke’s 15th of the season.
With 40 minutes in the books, Flint’s lead was 5 – 1. The Storm still held the lead in shots on goal 22 – 20. Both teams came up empty on their second power-play opportunity in the second period.
The Storm scored the first special-teams goal of the game at 4:28 of the third on the power play. Isaac Ratcliffe’s (Philadelphia Flyers) shot snuck under Cavallin’s right-pad on the ice from the left circle. For Ratcliffe it was his team-leading 33rd goal of the season. Garrett McFadden and Liam Hawel (Dallas Stars) were credited with the assists.
Off an offensive-zone face-off, the Storm connected for an even-strength goal to pull within two at 8:56 of the final frame. Rookie Mason Primeau sent a spin-o-rama shot from the high slot through four bodies in front of Cavallin, five hole. Owen Lalonde and Mark Woolley assisted on the tally.
The deficit was cut to one at 12:43 of the third. With a loose bouncing puck to the left of Cavallin, Ratcliffe positioned himself back-door to the right of the netminder. Liam Hawel was able to free the puck from the scrum and send it across the slot to his waiting teammate. Ratcliffe scored his second of the night and 34th of the season past a diving Cavallin. Hawel and Alexey Torophchenko (St. Louis Blues) assisted on the goal.
Less than one minute later, Ratcliffe scored his third goal of the third period to record a hat-trick, on the power-play. Ryan Merkley earned the lone assist on the game’s tying marker on Guelph’s 39th shot of the contest. At the end of regulation, the game was tied at five per side. Third period shots favored the Storm 19 – 4 for a three-period total of 41 – 24.
In the overtime period, the Firebirds needed just 35 seconds to claim victory. Dellandrea carried the puck across the blue line and dropped a pass to Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes). Smereck returned a pass to Dellandrea who directed the puck on goal from the high slot. Daws made the save, but the rebound sat just outside the crease to right-wing side. Smereck was able to shake off his defender enough to knock in the game-winner just inside the right post. The goal was Smereck’s 99th career point in the OHL, setting up the overager to battle for the century mark on home ice against the Sudbury Wolves at the Dort Federal Event Center Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. and great seats are still available.
Single game tickets for all Firebirds games are $12 / Bronze, $16 / Silver, $20 / Gold and $26 / VIP seating (Seating Chart). All seats are reserved / assigned seating. Fans can purchase tickets by calling (810) 744-0580, in-person at the Dort Federal Event Center Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com here.
Photo Credit: Garrett FitzGerald / Flint Firebirds Hockey Club
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