Firebirds Extend Home Win Streak to Eight with 4-3 Win over London
Flint, Mich. – The Firebirds battled from behind in the third period, picking up their eighth straight win at home and setting a new franchise record. Nolan Dann scored the opening goal once again, giving him two on the weekend. Gavin Hayes stayed hot, netting a three-point performance (2 G, 1 A). Amadeus Lombardi set a new franchise single-season record with 53 assists, grabbing another multi-point night (2 A). Riley Piercey scored his 20th of the season, which proved to be the eventual game-winner. Sean McGurn and Max McCue both recorded a goal and an assist for London. Brett Brochu got the start for the Knights, stopping 26 of 30 shots. Will Cranley started between the pipes for the Birds, stopping 33 of 36 shots and picking up his 18th win of the year.
Flint put the pressure on the Knights early into this one, but it would be London who would strike first. A turnover at the offensive zone blue line by the Firebirds kickstarted a rush for London forward George Diaco. Diaco cut across the slot and dropped it to a trailing Oliver Bonk. Bonk took a shot on goal and was denied by Cranley, but the rebound spit right onto the blade of Sean McGurn. McGurn buried the second chance past a sprawling Cranley, giving the Knights an early 1-0 lead.
Just under 2;30 later, a huge blocked shot in the defensive zone slot by Simon Slavicek allowed Artem Guryev to start the breakout. Guryev sent a saucer pass over the stick of a London attacker and onto the stick of a streaking Braeden Kressler. He entered the zone and sent another great pass over the defender’s stick to a crashing Nolan Dann on the left side of the slot. Dann pulled the puck over to his backhand and slid it by Brochu, knotting the game back up at one just minutes later.
The Firebirds kept up the pressure from there. Riley Piercey led the rush out of the defensive zone for the Birds and moved the puck across the neutral zone to Amadeus Lombardi. He entered the zone and dropped it back to Gavin Hayes who quickly touched the puck back to Lombardi. He then skated in near the left side of the low slot. Lombardi got London goalie Brett Brochu to bite on a fake and went back to Hayes who was alone in the slot. Hayes has been hot and he stayed hot, firing home his 39th goal of the season and giving Flint the lead just over five minutes into the game.
After one period of play the Firebirds led 2-1, despite being outshot by the Knights 11-10 and London receiving the only two man-advantages of the opening 20 minutes. The Birds also outdrew the Knights 13-6.
The Knights came out of the room with some strong play, and it paid off early. A takeaway on the left side of the offensive zone blue line by McGurn created a breakaway down the middle for Max McCue. McCue walked in and fired a wrister through low to the right pad, tying the game at two apiece just over one minute into the middle frame.
London kept their foot on the pedal, catching the Firebirds in the middle of a line change and creating an odd-man rush the other way. Diaco sent it over to the right side of the slot to McCue, who patiently waited and sent it back in the high slot to Sam Dickinson for the second London goal in the first six minutes of the second period. The Knights went into the room trailing 2-1, but led 3-2 not even six minutes into the period.
The Knights outshot the Birds 11-8 and that period but once again were outdrawn by Flint 12-6.
Third-period action began and both teams saw their fair share of chances, unable to capitalize. With just over 13 minutes remaining in the third period, the Knights still led 3-2. The Firebirds were able to clear the zone, flipping the puck to the far blue line. What looked to be a harmless regroup for the Knights turned a calm Dort Financial Center wild within seconds. Gavin Hayes stripped the puck away from Dickinson, toe dragged around him, and buried it bar down high to the glove side, evening things up at three.
The Birds struck again in the blink of an eye. London attempted a breakout on the left side half wall of their zone, but Hayes shut it down, knocking the puck out of the air and onto the stick of Lombardi. Lombardi sauced the puck over to the right side of the high slot, where a crashing Riley Piercey snatched it with the forehand, dragged it to the backhand, and put it in the back of the net. The Birds trailed by two just a few minutes ago and now found themselves with a 4-3 lead with just over 12 minutes to go after the two goals were scored 15 seconds apart.
London would call a timeout and pull the goalie with over 90 seconds to go, the Birds leading by one. Good defense by the Birds kept the puck out of the back of the net and secured the victory.
Next Up: The Firebirds welcome the Western Conference-leading London Knights for the final time this year on Saturday. Prior to the game, the Firebirds will honor their Overage players: Riley Piercey, Tyler Deline, and Will Cranley in a special pregame ceremony to celebrate their OHL careers. Additionally, it will be Dover Doors night where the first 2,000 fans will receive a FREE keychain tape measurer courtesy of Dover Doors. Tickets for Saturday’s game are available now from ETIX.COM HERE.
Story: Sean Massa / flintfirebirds.com
Photography: Todd Boone / Flint Firebirds
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Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club