Flint, Mich. – At least 29 NHL scouts were on hand, representing 18 of the 31 NHL teams, when the Saginaw Spirit visited the Flint Firebirds for a Wednesday night tilt at the Dort Federal Event Center. Jacob Winterton and Ethan Keppen scored for Flint, but the visitors generated six goals from five different skaters to take the first of eight meetings between the two clubs in the I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light. Flint dominated the face-off circle for the second consecutive contest, winning 32 of 56 on the night.
Jacob Winterton opened the scoring, picking up his second tally of the season just 2:40 into play. Eric Uba emerged from a four-player battle in the right-wing corner and connected a pass to Winterton in the slot. Winterton made a move around a Spirit defender and beat netminder Ivan Prosvetov (Arizona Coyotes) with a rising wrist-shot, blocker side.
Saginaw answered with a pair of goals 22 seconds apart to take the lead. On the power play, Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild) sent a cross-ice pass from top of the left-wing circle to Cole Perfetti, centered at the right-wing circle. Perfetti then found Nicholas Porco to the left side of the net, who was able to redirect the puck past netminder Emanuel Vella’s right pad at ice level. The goal came at 14:29 and was Porco’s fourth of the season. 22 seconds later, the Spirit found the back of the net through traffic to take their first lead of the night. Saginaw controlled an offensive-zone face-off back to Bode Wilde at the left-point. Wilde fired the puck into traffic in front of Vella, where it redirected off a Giroux and in. After twenty minutes of play, the shots on goal were tied 6 – 6, but the scoreboard favored the visitors 2 – 1.
Porco struck again for his fifth of the season, short-handed, early in the middle frame. He was able to intercept a pass between two Firebirds’ defenders in their defensive zone and quickly convert short side from point-blank range, unassisted, at 1:45.
The Firebirds battled back to within one when Ethan Keppen found paydirt at 9:53 of the second period, picking up his third of campaign. Jack Phibbs sent a neutral-ice pass that sprung Keppen on a breakaway with two Spirit defenders in tow. With a burst of speed, Keppen found room to fire a shot over Prosvetov’s right shoulder that caught the connection and deflected down into the net. Phibbs was credited with the solo assist on the play.
Kyle Harris came very close to tying the game less than a minute later on a similar breakaway. This time, however, the Saginaw defender took Harris down from behind before he could get a shot away. The result was a penalty shot for Harris. He skated the puck from the center-ice dot to the right-side wall, before returning to the slot and launching a hard shot on net. Prosvetov stood tall and made the save with his left pad, preserving the lead for Saginaw. Then, Jake Durham left a duo of rearguards with an explosive stride for Flint’s third breakaway of the middle stanza, but was also robbed by Prosvetov on a forehand-to-backhand attempt late in the frame. After forty minutes, Flint was up on the shot clock 19 – 16 but trailed on the scoreboard 3 – 2.
Saginaw controlled the offense in the final frame with three unanswered goals. Albert Michnac set the first up with a pass from the left-wing wall to Wilde at the point. Wilde took a stride toward center ice before sending a slapper on net. The puck found its way through traffic and past Vella at 7:47 for his first-career OHL goal. The next marker was a highlight-reel type goal, batted out of mid-air by Jake Goldowski at 15:01. Max Grondin and Perfetti picked up the helpers. The sixth Spirit goal came off the stick of Perfetti in the final minute of play, his third of the season. Hayden Davis and Plymouth, Mich. native Brady Gilmour (Detroit Redwings) drew the assists. Saginaw recorded a 6 – 2 victory and an advantage in shots 35 – 27.
Next Home Game:
The Firebirds will return to the Dort Federal Event Center this Saturday night at 7 p.m. for a tilt with the Guelph Storm. Face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET). It’s Hot Wing’s birthday party as the Firebirds’ mascot turns three! The first 500 fans will receive free pom-pom’s and the first 1,000 fans will receive a free Firebirds’ magnet schedule.
All 34 individual game tickets for the Firebirds’ 2018-19 season are on sale now and can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com here. Single game tickets are $12 for bronze, $16 for silver, $20 for gold and $26 for VIP seating.
Photo Credit: Todd Boone / Flint Firebirds
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club