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Firebirds Look to Return to Their Winning Ways Tonight in Erie

Erie, Penn. – After more necessary reshuffling of the OHL schedule, the Firebirds will now travel to Erie, Penn. to battle the Otters Thursday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Erie Insurance Arena.

Flint enters Thursday’s tilt ranked third in the West Division with a 15-12-0-2 record. They’ve picked up nine points in their past 10 contests, going 4-5-0-1 in that time. The Otters carry a record of 10-16-1-1 and sit fifth in the Midwest Division. On home ice this season, Erie has gone 3-6-0-0 compared to the Birds’ road record of 8-4-0-1.

The last time these teams met was December 8 in Flint. That night, the Firebirds came out on top 9-6 in a game that featured plenty of scoring, highlighted by the D’Amato brothers combining for five total goals. Flint’s Luca D’Amato scored twice and earned one assist en-route to ‘First Star’ honors in the contest. His brother Daniel D’Amato recorded a hat trick and had a four-point night, and was named the game’s ‘Second Star.’ Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers) scored twice and assisted twice for a four-point outing, while Amadeus Lombardi (2 G, 1 A) and Coulson Pitre (3 A) each recorded three points. Brendan Hoffman also picked up three points (2 G, 1 A) for Erie. Between the pipes, Ian Michelone made 20 saves on 26 shots to earn his fourth win in just his sixth OHL appearance.

In total, these teams have played six times so far this season. Flint has won all six meetings. The Otters, however, enter Thursday’s tilt on a four-game winning streak. The Firebirds have dropped two tough road games in a row, and look to rebound in Erie. Thursday’s game marks the seventh of 12 total meetings between these clubs, and the third of six to be played in Pennsylvania. All-time, the Birds hold a record of 12-7-2-3 versus the Otters and are 6-3-0-2 at the Erie Insurance Arena. Last season (2019-20) the ‘Birds won both games in the series.

On special teams this season, Flint’s killing penalties at the OHL’s best rate of 86.0%. Erie’s penalty-killers are ranked 10th at an even 79.0% efficiency. With the man-advantage, the Otters rank 16th in the league, converting at a rate of 17.9% and the Firebirds are 14th, scoring at a 18.4% clip.

Players to Watch:

Flint Firebirds (15-10-0-2, 2nd West Division):

Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers) continues to run the leaderboard for the Birds, now with 22 goals and 19 assists for 41 total points in 27 games. He ranks fourth in the OHL for goals-scored, is tied for second with three shorthanded tallies, and is tied for ninth in total points. Riley Piercey sits second in points with 26 (11 G, 15 A) through 24 games played. Amadeus Lombardi is third on the club with 13 goals and 12 helpers through 28 games.

Defenseman Tyler Deline tops the blue-line unit with three goals and 19 assists for 22 total points. Deline also sits tied for third among all OHL defensemen and tied for ninth across the entire league with 13 power-play assists. He’s also tied for seventh-most assists among all rearguards in the league. Rookie Coulson Pitre was just named the ‘OHL Rookie of the Month’ for December, and he now has 22 points (10 G, 12 A) in 23 games. He’s first in the OHL’s rookie class with a 0.95 points-per-game average, tied for sixth in total points for rookies, and tied for sixth in total goals among first-year players.

In net, Luke Cavallin has appeared in 21 games this season. He carries a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.42 and a save percentage (SV%) of .898. Cavallin has earned 11 wins, with one of them being a shutout. His 11 wins are tied for the fifth-most of any goaltender in the OHL. Rookie netminder Ian Michelone has now played in eight games and has four victories. He carries a GAA of 4.03 and a SV% of .889. Michelone remains the only active OHL rookie goaltender with a shutout this season. Nathaniel Day has played 18 minutes of OHL action and made four saves on four shots.

NHL: The Firebirds have three players with NHL ties consisting of Braeden Kressler (Toronto Maple Leafs), Dmitry Kuzmin (Winnipeg Jets), and Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers). Also, Gavin Hayes was named to the most recent NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List.

Despite Flint playing in just five OHL seasons thus far, Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes / Detroit Red Wings), Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) are three former Firebirds to play in the NHL. Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers) and Firebirds’ alumni Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) have all played in NHL pre-season contests. In total, the team has produced 21 signed or drafted players into the NHL.

Erie Otters (10-16-1-1, 5th Midwest Division):

Third-year center Elias Cohen sits atop Erie’s scoresheet at better than a point-per-game average with 28 points (10 G, 18 A) in 27 games. Brett Bressette is second in scoring for the Otters, with ten goals and 14 assists for 24 total points in 26 games played. Connor Lockhart (Vancouver Canucks) is tied for third with nine tallies and 13 helpers for 22 points in 24 contests. Tied with Lockhart is the brother of Flint’s Luca D’Amato, Daniel. The elder D’Amato brother has ten goals and 12 assists through 23 games for his Otters.

Erie’s top-scoring defenseman is Christian Kyrou, who has lit the lamp six times and pitched in 16 assists through 28 games played. Kyrou is tied for sixth-most goals by defensemen in the league and tied for tenth in total points among rearguards. The Otters’ 2020 first-round draft pick (8th overall) Spencer Sova paces the freshman class on the team with 12 points (2 G, 10 A). Sova is tied for the fourth-most power-play assists among rookies with six this year.

The Otters are backstopped by a pair of first-year netminders. Nolan Lalonde has played in 24 games this season, which is only one appearance shy of the most by any OHL goalie. He has posted a 3.59 goals-against average (GAA) and a save-percentage (SV%) of .888 and was recently named the OHL Goaltender of the Week after going 2-0 with a 1.44 GAA and a SV% of .957. He’s credited with all nine Erie victories. Marshall Nicholls has played in six contests and carries a 4.43 GAA with a SV% of .865.

NHL: Connor Lockhart (Vancouver Canucks) is the lone player on Erie’s roster with NHL ties. Daniel D’Amato attended the Vegas Golden Knights main camp this preseason. Additionally, Spencer Sova, Artem Kulakov, and Nolan Lalonde were named to the most recent NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List.

Notable Otters’ alumni to play in the NHL are Connor McDavid, Alex DeBrincat, Connor Brown, Nikita Alexeev, Brad Boyes, Tim Connoly, Mike Rupp, Steve Montador, Carlo Colaiacovo, Chris Campoli, Jason Ward and Dylan Strome.

Broadcast Coverage:

Thursday evening’s contest against the Erie Otters can be heard live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM, online at www.us103.com, or by downloading the US 103 app here. Jack Sznewajs will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin prior to puck drop at 6:40 p.m. (ET) Thursday evening.

The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 463 (4463 HD) for both Rogers TV and Cogeco TV cable subscribers. OHL fans with cable television in Ontario can add the OHL Action Pak to their television plan to catch the Firebirds in action, home or away all season long.

Also, all Flint Firebirds’ home and away games throughout the 2021-22 regular season can be watched anywhere in the world online on https://watch.chl.ca/ohl. CHL TV is the league’s new and improved video streaming platform that delivers high-quality live and on-demand coverage of all regular season and playoff games annually. The cost is $6.99 for 24-hour access, $24.99 for monthly access, $109.99 for all-access to the 2021-22 Firebirds and OHL season, or $159.99 for all-access to the entire 2021-22 CHL season.

Next Up: The Firebirds’ road trip continues as they continue to navigate around the Ontario government’s regulations. They head to Saginaw for the 10th game of the I-75 Divide Cup (presented by Coors Light) Saturday night at 7:05 p.m., followed by a road game vs. the Windsor Spitfires Sunday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. before taking on the Guelph Storm at the Sleeman Centre at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 18th.

Story: Brandon Mills/flintfirebirds.com

For more information, contact:

Jack Sznewajs
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club
jack@flintfirebirds.com
(810) 519-9347 ext. 223

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