Flint, Mich. – After defeating their in-state rivals on the road Wednesday night, the Firebirds will host the Spirit in Flint Friday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center (cap. 4,400).
Tonight’s contest will feature 10 NHL Draft picks on the ice and the return of Firebirds’ captain Ty Dellandrea. Make plans to arrive early to avoid long lines and to be there for the pregame ceremony as the Firebirds honor Dellandrea for earning Gold with Canada at the World Junior Championship.
Friday night marks the sixth of eight regular-season meetings annually between these clubs, and the third of four in Flint. When these clubs met in Saginaw on September 21, the Firebirds scored four unanswered goals to spoil their in-state rivals’ opening night. After that, the Spirit won three straight including two wins in Flint before the Firebirds won this past Wednesday in Saginaw. Two of the five games played in the series thus far have been decided by a single goal, including Flint’s win Wednesday night.
Saginaw currently holds a 3 – 2 lead in the season series heading into game six Friday night. All-time, Flint is 12-23-0-2 against the Spirit and 6-9-0-2 at the Dort Federal Event Center. For the fifth consecutive season, the team who wins the most regular-season meetings between the two clubs will take home the coveted I-75 Divide Cup, sponsored by Coors Light. In each of the first two seasons, the Cup remained in Flint. The Spirit claimed the Cup the last two seasons, thus tying the Cup series at two wins each heading into this year.
Saginaw carries a record of 23-12-2-2 and ranks second in the West Division. Flint’s record stands at 21-15-1-0, ranking them third in the West Division. In the 10-team Western Conference, Saginaw is seeded third and the ‘Birds are currently sixth. The Spirit are 9-5-2-0 in away games compared to Flint’s 13-7-1-0 record on home ice. The Firebirds have gone 4-5-1-0 in their last ten games and Saginaw went 8-2-0-0. The ‘Birds have won two of their last three games and picked up points in their last three.
Tonight, recently acquired forward Riley Piercey and defenseman Tyler Tucker (St. Louis Blues) will play their first games at the Dort Federal Event Center in a Firebirds uniform. Additionally, Saginaw acquired Carolina Hurricanes first-round NHL Draft prospect Ryan Suzuki from the Barrie Colts Friday and could play in Flint tonight.
On special teams, the Spirit rank 17th with the man-advantage, converting on 18.7% of their opportunities. The Firebirds are scoring at a 16.3% clip on the power play. When shorthanded, Saginaw has the seventh-best penalty kill (PK) at 80.0%. The Firebirds are now killing penalties at a rate of 81.1%, which ranks fifth in the league. On home ice, the ‘Birds have the OHL’s top PK with a success rate of 87.1%.
Players to Watch:
Flint Firebirds (21-15-1-0, 3rd West Division):
Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) rejoins the club after winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the IIHF World U20 Championship (World Juniors) in the Czech Republic. Prior to leaving Flint to join team Canada, Dellandrea scored an impressive six goals and five assists in his final three contests. For the season, he ranks third for Flint with 17 goals and 20 helpers in 27 games.
Belarusian forward Evgeniy Oksentyuk tops the club with 19 goals and 25 assists for 44 points in 32 contests. He’s currently on a 14-game point streak (11G, 14A), which ties him for the all-time Firebirds’ record of 14 games with Kole Sherwood.
Defenseman Riley McCourt recently surpassed former Firebird Matt Henderson for most goals scored by a defenseman in a Firebirds’ uniform with 21 pots in the orange and navy blue. McCourt’s 85 total points with Flint are just five shy of tying the record for all-time points by a Firebirds’ rearguard. For this season, McCourt is second in total offense with 11 goals and a team-high 29 assists for 40 total points in 37 games. His total points are fourth-most among OHL rearguards, his 11 tallies are tied for fifth, and his 29 helpers are fifth. McCourt also has also scored the first goal of the game three times this season, the most by any defenseman.
Behind McCourt is a trio of defenders with NHL ties. The newest addition to the blue-line troops is Tyler Tucker (St. Louis Blues). Tucker has eight goals and 21 assists through 29 games-played. His point total is eighth among all defensemen in the league. Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) has 20 total points (8G, 12A) and Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) has 18 points (5G, 13A).
Between the pipes, Anthony Popovich has played in 27 games this season. He’s earned 15 victories, which are tied for the fourth-most in OHL. His goals-against average (GAA) is 3.68 and he’ tied for the eighth-best save-percentage (SAV%) in the league at .900. Luke Cavallin has six wins in 13 appearances, and he carries a 3.83 GAA with a .896 SAV%.
NHL: The Firebirds have five players with NHL ties consisting of Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) and Tyler Tucker (St. Louis Blues).
Despite Flint being in the midst of just their fifth OHL season, three former Firebirds have already played in NHL regular-season games: Nick Caamano (Dallas Stars), Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets). Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vili Saarijarvi (Arizona Coyotes) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) have played in NHL pre-season contests. In total, the team has produced an impressive 18 drafted or signed NHL players in that short time.
Saginaw Spirit (23-12-2-2, 2nd West Division):
Cole Perfetti has played in 38 games this season and leads the Spirit in both assists (42) and total points (64). He ranks third in the OHL in both categories. Perfetti is considered a top-prospect and is projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, and he’s currently on a nine-game point streak (7G, 12A). Ryan Suzuki (Carolina Hurricanes) has 23 points (5G, 18A) in 21 games this season. Cole Coskey (New York Islanders) ranks second on the club with 49 total points (20G, 29A). Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild) is third with 41 points, including a team-high 24 tallies which is tied for the tenth-most goals-scored in the OHL. Giroux is also tied for tenth with eight power-play markers.
Saginaw’s top defender on the score sheet is Ilya Solovyov, who has three goals and 25 assists in 30 games. His assists are tied for ninth-most among OHL blue-liners, and his 28 total points rank 10th. First-year forward Ethan Cardwell tops the freshman class for Saginaw with 12 goals and nine assists through 37 games-played. His 21 points are tied for sixth-most among all rookies, and his 12 goals are tied for third.
In net, Marshall Frappier and Tristan Lennox have each appeared in 20 contests. Frappier has 13 wins, including two shutouts. His save-percentage (SAV%) is .886 and his goals-against average (GAA) of 3.25 is the league’s seventh-best. Tristan Lennox ten wins and a .874 SAV% with a 3.70 GAA.
NHL: The Spirit have six players with NHL ties on their roster, consisting of Jackson, Mich. native Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders), Cole Coskey (New York Islanders), Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild), Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers), Reilly Webb (Detroit Red Wings), Ryan Suzuki (Carolina Hurricanes) and Bode Wilde (New York Islanders). Additionally, Cole Perfetti and Ilya Solovyov were named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting November ‘Players to Watch’ list.
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.
Friday evening’s contest against Saginaw 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. Firebirds’ broadcaster Dominic Hennig will call the play-by-play action and Jack Sznewajs will provide color commentary on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 6:30 p.m. New this season, fans can watch the FHN TV Pregame Show live on Facebook and Twitter, also beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 463 for Cogeco TV and Rogers 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. Along with Friday’s game, 65 of the Firebirds’ 68 games throughout the 2019-20 season are also scheduled to be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak.
Through Saginaw’s partnership, the game will also be televised on a tape-delayed basis throughout Mid-Michigan on Sunday, January 12th at 8 p.m. (ET) on WNEM-TV5 Plus. The channel can be found on 5.2 via antennae over the air, channel 199 for Charter Cable subscribers and channel 4 for Comcast/Xfinity cable subscribers.
All Flint Firebirds home and away games throughout the 2019-20 season can be watched anywhere in the world online on www.ohllive.com or on the OHL Live app. OHL Live is a league 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 per game, $69.99 for Flint Firebirds away games only, $149.99 for all 68 home and away Firebirds games and $179.99 for all 1,360 OHL games throughout the 2019-20 season.
Next Home Game:
Flint hosts the West-Division leading Windsor Spitfires Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Federal Event Center.
Single game tickets for all Firebirds games are $12 Bronze, $16 Silver, $20 Gold and $26 VIP seating (Seating Chart). All seats are reserved / assigned seating. Fans can purchase tickets by calling (810) 744-0580, in-person at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com here.
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club