Red-Hot Firebirds Visit Erie, Seek Crucial Points in Playoff Race
Flint, Mich. – After sweeping their recent five-game homestand, the Firebirds now hit a three-game stretch on the road. Only seven games remain in the regular season, and Flint is in the midst of a tight battle for playoff positions. The Otters host the Birds tonight, with puck drop set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Erie Insurance Arena tonight.
Prior to their game against Erie at the Dort Financial Center on Wednesday, the Birds were the seventh seed in the Western Conference. After winning the game 4-1 they moved into the fifth spot, tied with the Guelph Storm in points, and are five points back of the fourth-ranked Saginaw Spirit. While the top eight teams of each ten-team Conference make the playoffs, the top four earn home-ice advantage heading into Round One.
The Firebirds enter tonight’s tilt with a record of 30-26-4-1 and now have points in eight of their last nine games. Flint’s posted a 14-14-2-0 mark on the road this year. The Otters come in fifth in the Midwest Division and tenth in the Western Conference with a 20-35-1-5 mark. They’re 12-13-1-3 on home ice this season.
Before Wednesday evening’s 4-1 victory at the Dort Financial Center, these clubs had split a pair of games. Flint took the first victory at the Erie Insurance Arena by a lopsided 8-1 final before dropping a 5-2 decision at the Dort Financial Center on January 22. Since the club’s inception in 2015, the Birds have gone 18-10-2-2 when facing the Otters, and sit at 9-5-0-2 when playing in the Erie Insurance Arena. Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting of the season between these teams and is the second of two scheduled in Erie.
On special teams, the Firebirds have converted on 20.2% of their power-play chances this season, ranking them 16th in the OHL. They need just one more power-play tally on the road to tie their club record of 22 in a season. Erie sits in 18th position with an 18.0% success rate with the extra man. While shorthanded, the Birds are 13th-best with a 77.3% efficiency. They’ve netted nine shorthanded tallies in road games this year, now two more than the previous franchise record of seven. The Otters are killing penalties 76.7% of the time, good for 15th.
Players to Watch
Firebirds (30-26-4-1, 4th West Division):
Amadeus Lombardi has 41 goals and 45 assists for 86 total points. He’s one of only three players on the roster who’s played in all 61 games this season. He’s potted the sixth-most goals in the league and is tied for the fourth-most total points. Gavin Hayes has 31 tallies and 35 helpers in 60 contests. Overage forward Riley Piercey is third with 63 points (19 G, 44 A) in 61 games played.
Defender Dmitry Kuzmin continues to collect points while playing solid defense. He now has 14 goals with 44 assists through 61 tilts. He’s fourth out of all league defenders in point total and is tied for the eighth-most goals. Draft-eligible defenseman Tristan Bertucci has the second-most points among rearguards on the team with ten tallies and 34 helpers.
Rookie netminder Nathan Day has been rock-solid for the Firebirds in their playoff push. He’s won seven-consecutive starts. For the season, he has 15 wins in 28 appearances and carries a 3.88 goals-against average (GAA) with a .874 save percentage (SV%). Veteran goaltender Will Cranley has appeared in 40 contests and posted a 4.00 goals-against average (GAA) with a .880 save percentage (SV%). Cranley is credited with 15 victories, including one shutout.
NHL: The Firebirds have six players with NHL ties consisting of Will Cranley (St. Louis Blues), Amadeus Lombardi (Detroit Red Wings), Gavin Hayes (Chicago Blackhawks), Braeden Kressler (Toronto Maple Leafs), Dmitri Kuzmin (Winnipeg Jets), and Artem Guryev (San Jose Sharks). Additionally, Coulson Pitre, Tristan Bertucci, Ethan Hay, and goaltender Nathan Day were listed on the NHL Central Scouting’s 2023 Midterm Rankings for the upcoming NHL Draft.
Through seven OHL seasons thus far, Alex Nedeljkovic (Detroit), Kole Sherwood (Columbus), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas), Tyler Tucker (St. Louis), and Will Bitten (St. Louis) are five former Firebirds to play in the NHL. Riley Piercey (Detroit) and Gavin Hayes (Chicago) played in NHL preseason contests this year, joining Firebirds’ alumni Ethan Keppen (Vancouver), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit), and Jalen Smereck (Arizona). The team has produced 25 signed or drafted players into the NHL.
Erie Otters (20-35-1-5, 5th Midwest Division):
Third-year center Pano Fimis tops the Otters in scoring with 15 goals and 30 assists through 51 games. Ranking second is fellow centerman in his third season of OHL play Carey Terrance, who has 43 points (27 G, 16 A) in 60 games. Defenseman Spencer Sova ranks third with 37 points, combining 15 tallies and 22 helpers in 61 games.
The Otters are backstopped by Nolan Lalonde, who has ten wins across 36 appearances, including one shutout. He carries a 4.16 goals-against average (GAA) and a .865 save percentage (SV%). Kyle Downey has played in 25 games this season, earning eight victories to date. His GAA stands at 3.78 and he has a .874 SV%.
NHL: The two players for the Otters with NHL ties are forward Liam Gilmartin (San Jose Sharks) and goaltender Nolan Lalonde (Columbus Blue Jackets). Additionally, Ondrej Molnar, Carey Terrance, Spencer Sova, and Alexis Daviault were listed on the NHL Central Scouting’s 2023 Midseason Rankings.
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.
This 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) today.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 466 (4466 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 at 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: Following tonight’s match in Erie, the Birds will travel to Oshawa for a Sunday evening tilt with the Generals. Jack Sznewajs will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin 15 minutes before puck drop at 5:45 p.m. (ET) 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. One more road game is scheduled for Wednesday in Owen Sound before returning for their next home game on Friday, March 17. Puck drop for the St. Patrick’s Day game is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Financial Center, and tickets are available now from ETIX.COM HERE.
Story: Brandon Mills / flintfirebirds.com
For more information, contact:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club