Resilient Firebirds Fight Back to Tie Twice Before Falling 6-4 to Colts
Flint, Mich. – After falling behind 3-0 early in the first Saturday period, the Firebirds battled back to tie the game at three, then again at four. Two late goals lifted the visiting Colts over Flint for a 6-4 final. Riley Piercey picked up the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, with a goal, an assist, and a fight. Coulson Pitre also recorded two points for Flint (1 G, 1 A). Brandt Clarke and Beau Jelsma led the Colts with two goals each. Nathan Day got the start in net for the Firebirds but was relieved by veteran Will Cranley early in the first period. Cranley posted 26 saves on 29 shots faced in the balance of the contest. Anson Thornton picked up his 16th win of the season with a 35-save performance.
Los Angeles Kings’ prospect Brandt Clarke scored two quick goals for the Colts to start the game. His first was shot low blocker from point-blank range at 3:05, which was his sixth of the season assisted by Zach Wigle. Then Clarke slipped one low to the glove side 23 seconds later, assisted by Ethan Cardwell and Evan Vierling. Will Cranley entered the contest for Flint at 3:28.
Barrie caught the Firebirds on a line change as Jacob Frasca sent a pass to Cardwell as he gained the Flint zone. He was tangled up with Flint’s lone defender through the left circle, and both players went sliding toward the Firebirds’ net. The defender collided with Cranley and Cardwell glanced off the left post and into the end boards. When Cranley and the Flint rearguard removed themselves from the goal, the puck was in the net. The officials reviewed the video feed and credited Cardwell with his team-leading 23rd of the season at 7:50.
Riley Piercey cut the Birds’ deficit to a pair at 15:34, netting his 15th of the campaign on the power play. Coulson Pitre made the initial pass from the right point to Amadeus Lombardi between the circles. Lombardi set up Riley Piercey centered in the right circle. Piercey lifted a quick wrister that went behind Thornton and into the top corner on the far side.
In the 19th minute of the first, Zacharie Giroux carried deep into the Barrie zone and took a big hit along the end boards. Laying flat on the ice, Giroux still managed to knock the puck toward the slot, where Simon Slavicek one-timed it. Thornton made the initial save, but the rebound went to Ethan Hay in the left circle for a second one-timer that lit the lamp at 18:44.
The Firebirds trailed 3-2 after 20 minutes after outshooting the Colts 14-13. They also outdrew Barrie 15-10 and scored on the first period’s only power play.
The score was tied 4:34 into the middle frame when Firebirds’ defenseman Artem Guryev attempted a saucer pass across the slot. The puck hit the shin guard of a Barrie defender and caromed under Thornton through the five-hole. The goal was Guryev’s third of the season, assisted by Tristan Bertucci and Ethan Hay.
The 3-3 tie didn’t last long, as the Colts reclaimed the lead 25 seconds later. Declan McDonnell sniped a low wrister five-hole at 4:59 to earn his seventh of the season. Jacob Frasca and Beau Jelsma combined for the assists.
The Birds battled back to tie once again at 12:20. Dmitry Kuzmin attempted a shot from between the circles that was partially blocked. He gathered the loose puck and slid it across the slot to Coulson Pitre to complete the back-door play for his 19th of the year. Riley Piercey was credited with the second helper.
Barrie took back-to-back penalties with under five minutes to play in the center stanza. Flint’s coaching staff opted to use their lone timeout to strategize before the 66-second 5-on-3 power play. Despite maintaining possession in their zone for the entire two-man advantage, the penalty-kill unit for the Colts blocked several shot attempts and kept the pressure off Thornton. The score remained knotted at four after 40 minutes.
Shots in the middle frame ended at 12-10, advantage Barrie. The Birds won 12 of 21 draws for the slight edge in the faceoff circles. Flint went 0-for-2 with the man advantage while killing off their lone penalty taken.
The Colts again broke the tie and regained the advantage early in the period. Beau Jelsma lifted a rising wrister from the left hash marks that found twine blocker-side for his 18th of the season at 1:45, assisted by Frasca and Akey.
Cranley was called to the bench for an extra attacker with around 90 seconds remaining in regulation. The Colts sent several long-range shots wide before Jelsma tapped one in from the side of the cage with
The final shots were 39 for Flint and 35 for Barrie. 36-25 was Flint’s advantage in faceoffs in the contest. On special teams, Barrie finished scoreless on one power play while the Birds scored once on four chances.
Up Next: The Firebirds will make the short drive up I-75 North for Game 7 of the I-75 Divide Cup series, presented by Coors Light. The Spirit hold a 4-2 lead in the eight-game series, with Flint still having a shot to keep the coveted trophy home with two more wins over Saginaw. The Birds’ next home game is Friday night when the OHL-leading Ottawa 67’s are in town for a 7:00 p.m. (ET) tilt. Tickets for Friday’s home contest are available from ETIX HERE.
Story: Brandon Mills / flintfirebirds.com
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