I-75 Divide Cup Surrendered in 5-4 Decision to Spirit
Saginaw, Mich. – The Firebirds dropped the I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light, tonight in Saginaw in a 5-4 heartbreaking defeat. Riley Piercey continued his hot play, extending his points streak to five games (3 G, 5 A) by picking up two assists in the tilt. Sophomore defender Tristan Bertucci also posted a two-point night with a goal and an assist from the blue line. Nathan Day backstopped the Firebirds through 40 minutes, making 13 saves before Will Cranley played the third period and made all nine saves asked of him. Tristan Lennox got the nod between the pipes for the Spirit and posted 31 saves to log his 18th win.
The Spirit were quick to net the game’s first goal at even strength less than two minutes in. Sebastian Gervais shot once from atop the hash marks, then grabbed his own rebound and shot from the bottom of the right circle. After Day made the initial save, the rebound rang off the post on the second shot and went into the left corner. Gervais was first on the puck again, this time carrying behind the Flint net. From Day’s left he completed a wraparound for his fifth of the season 1:59 into period one, assisted by Hunter Haight.
Nearly ten minutes later, the Firebirds scored the equalizer. Amadeus Lombardi carried up the left-wing wall but took a hit along the half-boards. The puck slipped free into the near circle, where Riley Piercey sent a cross-ice pass to Tristan Bertucci all alone at the right point. Bertucci made a few strides to the top of the right circle before tucking a shot under Lennox’s blocker for his fourth of the campaign at 11:55.
The teams hit the locker rooms after 20 minutes tied at 1-1. Flint led in shots 9-8 and faceoffs 11-9. The Firebirds went 0-for-2 on power plays while avoiding the penalty box through the first.
Flint claimed their first lead of the night 55 seconds into the middle frame. Saginaw put some heavy pressure on the Birds, shooting another one off the iron and the follow-up shot was thwarted by a diving Nathan Day. The latter rebound was scooped up by Dmitry Kuzmin and quickly sent to the neutral zone where Lombardi was off to the races. Without a defender in his path, Lombardi head-faked blocker side before lifting the puck into the top corner over the glove for his team-leading 29th of the year.
The Birds’ lead increased to a pair on a highlight goal from Braeden Kressler. As he split two Spirit defenders he was tripped up and slid on his belly between the circles with his stick on the ice in front of him. He managed to swing it at the puck in the slot and the puck ended up over Lennox’s shoulder at 6:30. The goal was Kressler’s 21st of the season, unassisted.
Saginaw’s rookie defender Zayne Parekh, who has been red-hot against the Firebirds all season, scored back-to-back goals 19 seconds apart to tie the tilt at three. First, his slapper through traffic found twine low to the stick side from the center point for his 15th of the season at 14:31. Michael Misa and Roberto Mancini combined for the assists. Then his wrister from the right circle lit the lamp at 14:50, with assists from Mancini and Gervais.
The Spirit reclaimed the lead 34 seconds later, starting with an offensive-zone faceoff win by Misa on the power play. The puck dropped in the left circle and Misa won it back to Mancini at the right point. The puck was rolling on its edge as Mancini hammered it on goal. As Day reached high to make the blocker side, the fluttering puck dove under his arm and in.
The Birds had more than a minute of a 5-on-3 power play but were unable to convert as Saginaw’s penalty-kill unit prevented any serious scoring chances. As the clock dwindled near the end of the middle frame, Theo Hill saucered a pass to the slot from the right-wing half wall. Misa was able to redirect it past Day with a defender draped all over him for his team-leading 21st with 11 seconds until intermission.
Second-period shots were 16-10 to Flint’s advantage, and the Birds outdrew the Spirit 18-14. The Firebirds’ power play went scoreless on two overlapping opportunities and Saginaw scored on both of their chances. Will Cranley entered the contest for the third period.
Beyond the midway point of the final frame, Bertucci snapped a quick shot into traffic from the left point. Ethan Hay got a stick on it and tipped it past Lennox for his tenth of the campaign at 10:53. Bertucci partnered with Piercey for the helpers, pulling Flint within one in the game.
The Birds used their timeout with less than 90 seconds remaining, and Cranley was summoned to the Flint bench around the 18:50 mark. The Firebirds created several scoring opportunities in the final minute but were unable to solve the defense and Lennox to tie before time expires.
The final shots read 35 from Flint and 27 from the Spirit. Saginaw was outdrawn 36-33. The home team went 2-for-4 with the man advantage while the visiting Firebirds finished scoreless with six tries.
Up Next: The Firebirds have two HUGE home games this weekend. Friday night the OHL-leading Ottawa 67’s are in town, and the Owen Sound Attack invade the Dort on Saturday.
The Firebirds will be celebrating National Women & Girls in Sports on Friday. The night includes a panel beginning at 5:30 p.m. that will be led by several successful women in the industry including Detroit Red Wings Reporter/Host Carley Johnston, the OHL’s first women linesperson Kirsten Welsh, USA Hockey Arena Program Coordinator Hannah McGowan, and the Flint Firebirds own Creative Content Coordinator Riley Fox. You can RSVP your spot to the panel NOW by simply clicking HERE to sign-up.
Then on Saturday, it’s Flint Generals Night sponsored by Shea Automotive. To kick things off, an alumni game between the Flint Generals and Muskegon Fury will be from 3:30-5:00 p.m. To gain access to this alumni game, you must purchase a ticket for the Saturday, February 4th game upon entering the arena concourse. There will also be a post-game Meet & Greet event in Arena 2 with both the Generals & Fury Alumni from 5:30-6:30 p.m. following the game. Tickets for the Meet & Greet event will be $20 and can be purchased at the Dort Financial Center Box Office Window or on Etix.com, while supplies last. The alumni jerseys for both the Flint Generals and Muskegon Fury are available for auction NOW on the DASH auction app. Text DASH to 6866 to download the IOS or Android app or click this link (https://bit.ly/3DpV1lK) to begin bidding. Alumni jersey proceeds will benefit the Kris Perani Hockey Foundation.
Following the Alumni Game, the Firebirds will be hosting the Owen Sound Attack at 7:00 p.m. Your Flint Firebirds will be wearing specialty Flint Generals throwback jerseys during the game and will be live-auctioned off following the conclusion of the Firebirds game. All jersey-auction proceeds are to benefit the Flint Firebirds Foundation.
Tickets for both home contests this weekend are available from ETIX HERE.
Story: Brandon Mills / flintfirebirds.com
For more information, contact:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club