Saginaw, Mich. – The Firebirds are set to play another installment in the I-75 Divide Cup series, presented by Coors Light, Thursday night. Saginaw has the early 3-1 lead through four games, and Flint seeks their first win on the road over the Spirit this year. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. (ET) at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.
The Firebirds enter Thursday’s contest in third place in the West Division with a record of 9-7-0-1. The Spirit sit second in the West, with a 10-7-1-0 record. On home ice this year, Saginaw has gone 4-4-0-0 compared to Flint’s road record of 4-1-0-1. The Birds’ lone regulation defeat on the road was October 27 in Saginaw. Both teams have picked up points in five of their last 10 games, with Flint going 4-5-1-0 and Saginaw being even at 5-5-0-0.
All-time, Flint carries a record of 15-26-0-2 against Saginaw, with a road record of 7-14-0-0. In the shortened 2019-20 season, Saginaw won four of seven meetings. Wednesday marks the fifth of 12 total meetings between the clubs, and the second of six to play in Saginaw. Thus far, the Spirit have won three of four meetings this year. After winning the I-75 Divide Cup their first two seasons in the OHL, Flint has now surrendered the trophy to Saginaw for three straight campaigns. The first team to win seven games in the series this season will win the coveted trophy.
The last time ‘Birds and Spirit met was November 24 in Flint. Game four of the series went to the Firebirds by a final score of 5-3. With the victory, the Firebirds snapped Saginaw’s win streak in Flint at ten games, dating back to the Firebirds’ last home win versus the Spirit in overtime on January 31, 2018. For the Firebirds, Gavin Hayes netted his first two goals of the season. Ethan Hay and Sahil Panwar also lit the lamp, Zacharie Giroux bagged the empty-netter to secure the victory, and Riley Piercey posted two points in the contest (2 A). Matyas Sapovaliv led the way for the Spirit, scoring twice, and Pavel Mintyukov finished with a goal and an assist. Luke Cavallin made 30 saves on 33 shots-faced for his seventh victory of the campaign. Across the ice, Andrew Oke made 26 saves on 30 shots.
On special teams, the Firebirds continue to improve, now having scored at least one power-play goal in seven of their last ten games. Flint ranks 15th on the power play, converting at a 17.3% rate. The Spirit rank 17th with a 14.3% conversion rate. Saginaw boasts the league’s third-best penalty kill, holding their opposition scoreless 85.5% of the time. Flint ranks second in the OHL, killing penalties at an 85.9% clip.
Players to Watch:
Flint Firebirds (9-7-0-1, 3rd West Division):
Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers) rides a four-game point streak (4 G, 7 A) into Thursday’s contest, and has a total of 27 points (14 G, 13 A) in 17 games played. Othmann is also tied for eighth in power-play tallies (5) and ninth in total goals scored (14). Second in points for Flint is blue-liner Tyler Deline with 16 total points (3 G, 13 A), which is tied for eighth-most in the OHL among defensemen. Deline also carries a four-game point streak (1 G, 5 A) in Thursday’s tilt with the Spirit. Amadeus Lombardi (5 G, 6 A) and Riley Piercey (3 G, 8 A) are tied for third with 11 points each.
Westland, Michigan native Gavin Hayes has also been hot of late, with six points in his last three games (3 G, 3 A). Flint’s top rookie on the charts is Coulson Pitre with five goals and three assists in 11 games.
In net, Luke Cavallin has appeared in 15 games thus far. He carries a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.40. His save percentage (SV%) is .900. Cavallin has earned eight wins, with one of them being a shutout. Among OHL netminders, Cavallin’s eight wins are tied for sixth-most. Rookie netminder Ian Michelone played two full games and carries a GAA of 4.00 and a SV% of .901 with one win. Nathaniel Day played the final 18 minutes of a road game in Saginaw and turned aside all four shots faced. Day is currently competing in the Capital City Challenge at TD Place in Ottawa.
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 recently named to the 2021 NHL Central Scouting November Players to Watch List. More recently, defenseman Tristan Bertucci and netminder Nathaniel Day were both among the 24 OHL players named to Hockey Canada’s Under-17 roster to participate at the inaugural Capital City Challenge. The Capital City Challenge is a four-team tournament featuring three men’s under-17 teams and Canada’s National Women’s Team, which is currently underway.
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.
Saginaw Spirit (10-7-1-0, 2nd West Division):
Josh Bloom (Buffalo Sabres) sits atop the leaderboard for the Spirit with 26 points (15 G, 11 A) through 18 games. His 15 goals are tied for fifth-most in the league, and he currently carries a six-game point streak, having logged eight goals and five assists in that span. Saginaw’s top rookie on the scoresheet is Matyas Sapovaliv, who sits second overall in total points (6 G, 10 A) through 18 contests. His point total is tied for eighth-most among rookies, his 13 assists are tied for sixth-most, and Sapovaliv is also riding a six-game point streak (4 G, 5 A) currently. There is a three-way tie for third in total points for Saginaw. Calumet, Mich. native Dean Loukus and rookie Caleb Mangone each have six tallies and eight helpers. Defenseman Pavel Mintyukov has lit the lamp three times and added 11 assists, and is on a six-game point streak (2 G, 7 A).
Between the pipes, Tristan Lennox (New York Islanders) has appeared in eight games and earned four victories. He carries a 2.67 goals-against average (GAA) and a save-percentage (SV%) of .888. Shelby Township, Mich. native Andrew Oke has played in ten contests, picking up five victories. Oke carries a 4.24 GAA with a SV% of .847. Brett Fullerton has played in one contest, posting a 3.33 GAA and a .850 SV%.
NHL: The Spirit have two players with NHL ties, consisting of Josh Bloom (Buffalo Sabres) and Tristan Lennox (New York Islanders). Additionally, forward Matyas Sapolaliv and rearguard Pavel Mintyukov were recently named to the 2021 NHL Central Scouting October Players to Watch List. Olivier Savard and Luke McNamara were both among the 24 OHL players named to Hockey Canada’s Under-17 roster to participate at the inaugural Capital City Challenge.
12 notable Spirit alumni to play in the NHL are Cody Bass, Paul Bissonnette, T.J. Brodie, Matt Corrente, Filip Hronek, Jan Mursak, Jamie Oleksiak, Dalton Prout, Tom Pyatt, Brandon Saad, Chris Thorburn and Vincent Trocheck.
Thursday evening’s contest against the Saginaw Spirit 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 6:50 p.m. (ET) Wednesday evening.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 468 (4468 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 Home Game: The Firebirds return to home ice Wednesday, December 8 to host the Erie Otters. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Financial Center. Tickets are on sale NOW here: ETIX.
Story: Brandon Mills/flintfirebirds.com
For more information, contact:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club
(810) 519-9347 ext. 223