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Preview: Firebirds look to continue winning ways in Hamilton Saturday

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Flint Firebirds at Hamilton Bulldogs
Date | Time Saturday, Feb. 8 | 4:00 p.m.
Location Hamilton, Ont. | FirstOntario Centre (capacity 17,383)
Tickets Ticketmaster | (905) 529-8500
TV – Cable 14 / 814 HD in Hamilton Live (Rogers & Cogeco)
– OHL Action Pak channel Rogers 466 & Cogeco 466 Live (Ontario)
Video Stream OHL Live
Radio WQUS 103.1 FM (Flint & Mid-Michigan) | Pregame Show: 3:30p
Radio (Mobile) US 103 App: Android | iPhone/iPad
Live Stats Here
Next Home Game Saturday, February 15th: Tropics Night
Social Media @FlintFirebirds   | Facebook | Instagram

Hamilton, Ont. – The Firebirds will play their second of three consecutive road games on the weekend and attempt to extend their longest winning streak ever versus the Bulldogs Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the First Ontario Centre (cap. 17,383) in Hamilton.

Last night, the Firebirds defeated the Erie Otters for the second time in seven days, this time on the road in overtime 5 – 4. The victory extended Flint’s overall franchise-best winning streak to eight games, and set a new franchise best road-game winning streak at five games. It also tied the club’s record for most away-game wins in a single season at 13. The team is now two victories shy of tying the record for most overall wins in a season, which currently sits at 32.

Connor Roberts potted Friday’s overtime game-winner just 26 seconds into the extra frame to keep the streaks alive. Cody Morgan, Brennan Othmann, Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) scored the goals in regulation. Luke Cavallin earned his tenth victory between the pipes, making 23 saves on 27 shots in another stellar performance. Hamilton skated into overtime against the OHL’s top team before eventually surrendering a 5 – 4 overtime decision to the Ottawa 67’s.

Of note, for the past 63 years since 1957, the cities of Flint, Michigan and Hamilton, Ontario have partnered for the CANUSA Games (Canada vs. USA), providing the youth (and adults) of both cities an opportunity to participate in international friendship games. During that time, the two cities have officially become “sister cities” which are cities that partner with each other to promote human contact and cultural links.

Ironically, five Flint Firebirds have ties to Hamilton. Two Flint skaters suited up for the Bulldogs before being acquired by Flint: Riley McCourt and Connor Roberts. Jake Durham was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 OHL Draft by Hamilton, but was signed as a free agent by the Firebirds. Jack Phibbs (Hagersville) and Jack Wismer (Stoney Creek) reside within 30 miles (or 52 kilometers) from the Bulldogs’ rink. More so, in the past four seasons since September 28th, 2016, Flint and Hamilton has also completed four different trades, sending five Firebirds to Hamilton (Bitten, Caamano, Jeník, Mattinen & Moore) while also receiving four Bulldogs (Gordeev, Hicks, McCourt & Roberts) in those transactions.

The last time these teams met was January 11, 2019. The Firebirds earned a point by taking Hamilton to overtime before the Bulldogs scored the final goal in extra time. Flint had the lead four different times in the contest, including the final three minutes of regulation. The Bulldogs tied the game with less than a minute remaining before sealing the outcome in the extra frame. Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) had a three-point night while Jake Durham, Riley McCourt and Jack Wismer each earned two points in the contest. Luke Cavallin stopped 35 of 41 shots. For the visitors, Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) recorded four points, scoring twice and adding two assists to lead the ‘Dogs.

Saturday marks the first of only two meetings between these two clubs and the only game to be played in Hamilton this season. All-time, the Firebirds hold a record of 2-3-2-1 versus the Bulldogs and are 0-3-0-1 at the First Ontario Centre, meaning Flint has yet to secure its first victory on the road in the series. Last season the ‘Birds went 0-1-1-0 against the ‘Dogs, picking up the one point in the only meeting in Flint. Of note, six of the eight contests between these clubs have been settled by a single goal.

The Firebirds enter Saturday’s contest in third place in the West Division and fifth in the 10-team Western Conference with a record of 30-17-1-1. The Bulldogs are currently fourth in the East Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 20-22-6-1 record. On home ice this year, Hamilton has a record of 11-12-1-1 compared to Flint’s road record of 13-9-0-1. In their past ten games, the Firebirds have a record of 8-1-0-1 and the ‘Dogs have gone 2-3-4-1.

On special teams this season, Flint’s penalty-kill (PK) sits fifth-best at 81.8%. Hamilton’s penalty-killers are tied for tenth overall in the OHL at 79.5%. With the man-advantage, the Bulldogs rank 12th in the league converting at a rate of 20.9% and the Firebirds are 18th, scoring at a 17.9% clip.

  

Players to Watch:

Flint Firebirds (30-17-1-1, 3rd West Division):
Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) tops the stat sheet for Flint with 29 goals and 32 helpers for 61 points in 39 games-played. He holds the franchise records for having the most goals (91), assists (116), points (207), game-winning goals (12), and he’s now tied with former Firebird Nick Caamano for a club-high 22 power-play tallies. As a centerman, Dellandrea has won the fifth-most faceoffs in the OHL this season with 548.

Belarusian forward Evgeniy Oksentyuk sits second on the club with 23 goals and 32 assists for 55 points in 44 contests. He rides a six-game point-streak (2G, 6A) into Saturday’s tilt. Earlier this season, Oksentyuk raised the bar for point-streaks with a streak of 17 games (13G, 16A), which is the longest in Flint history and the fourth-longest by any OHL player this season.

Riley McCourt holds several franchise records among Firebirds’ defensemen, including most goals in a single season (16), most career goals (26) and career points (95). He is only one assist shy of tying former Firebird Matt Henderson for the most assists by a rearguard at 70. This season, McCourt ranks third in total offense with 16 goals and a team-high 34 assists for 50 total points in 49 games. His total points are fifth-most among OHL rearguards, his 16 tallies are tied for fourth, and his 34 helpers are tied for fifth. McCourt also has the sixth-highest points-per-game average among blue-liners at 1.02.

Overage forward Jake Durham is ranks fourth on the squad with 18 goals and 28 assists. He already owns the record for most games-played by any Flint Firebirds’ player (251). Durham ranks third all-time in goals-scored for the franchise with 71. Ryan Moore is the former Firebird who ranks second (behind Dellandrea) with 72.

Two other Flint forwards find themselves on five-game point streaks entering Saturday’s tilt. Connor Roberts extended his point streak to five games with the overtime game-winning goal Friday night. He now has three goals and two assists in that span. Cody Morgan has tallied twice and picked up four helpers in his last five games to carry a point streak, as well.

Brennan Othmann leads the freshman class for the ‘Birds with 25 total points (12G, 13A) through 41 games. His point-total is tied for ninth among rookies in the league, his 12 goals are tied for sixth-most, and his .61 point-per-game is tied for the tenth-highest. Othmann needs just one more goal to tie Dellandrea for most-ever (13) by a rookie for Flint.

In net, Anthony Popovich has played in 34 games this season. He’s earned 20 victories, which are the most by any Flint netminder in a single season and the sixth-most among OHL netminders this season. Popovich’s goals-against average (GAA) is 3.68 and he has the ninth-best save-percentage (SAV%) in the league at .898. Luke Cavallin has ten wins in 19 appearances and carries a 3.67 GAA and a .893 SAV%. Cavallin recently became Flint’s all-time leader in minutes-played and saves by a Firebirds’ netminder. He is now one win away from tying former Firebirds’ goalie Garrett Forrest for most wins (25) by any Firebirds’ netminder.

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). Additionally, Evgeniy Oksentyuk was named to the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings for the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft.

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.

Hamilton Bulldogs (20-22-6-1, 4th East Division):
Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) tops the Bulldogs in points production. In 45 games, he has racked up 35 goals and 42 assists. His 77 points are the sixth-most in OHL, his 35 goals have him tied for fifth, his 12 power-play tallies are fourth-most in the league and he ranks eighth with 20 assists on the power play. Despite having an anticipated season-ending injury, Jan Jenik (Arizona Coyotes) has played in 27 games this season and ranks third in points-per-game at 2.07. He already has 22 goals and 34 helpers. Logan Morrison ranks third on the club with 21 tallies and 19 helpers for 40 points in 47 games-played.

Ranking fourth in offensive production for the Bulldogs is Tag Bertuzzi. Tag’s father is retired NHL’er Todd Bertuzzi. Todd’s playing career in the NHL from 1995 – 2014 included joining the Detroit Red Wings twice spanning seven seasons. Former Detroit Red Wings’ forward Tyler Bertuzzi is Tag’s cousin. Tyler was the only member of the Detroit Red Wings to play in the NHL All-Star Game last month.

Nathan Staios leads the defensive squad for Hamilton with four goals and 29 assists in 48 games. Ryan Winterton tops the first-year players for the Bulldogs with 16 points (10G, 6A) in 41 games.

Between the pipes, Zachary Roy has appeared in 25 games and earned 11 victories. For the season, Roy has a 3.52 goals-against average (GAA) and a save-percentage (SAV%) of .894. First-year netminder Marco Constantini has made 27 appearances, picking up nine wins. He carries a 3.94 GAA and a .881 SAV%.

NHL: The Bulldogs have two players with NHL ties on their squad, including Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) and Jan Jeník (Arizona Coyotes). Additionally, Logan Morrison and Jan Mysak were named to NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings for the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft.

The Belleville Bulls relocated to Hamilton in the summer of 2015. Notable Bulls’ alumni to play in the NHL are Steve Bancroft, Jonathan Cheechoo, Doug Gilmour, Al Iafrate, Darren McCarty, Marty McSorley, Darren Pang, Richard Panik, Jason Spezza, P.K. Subban, Scott Thornton and Mike Vellucci.

 

Broadcast Coverage:
Saturday evening’s contest 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 on the Firebirds Hockey Radio Network with pre-game coverage beginning 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 3:30 p.m.

The game will be televised live in Hamilton on Channel 14 / 814 (HD) for both Cogeco TV & Rogers TV cable subscribers. Across the province of Ontario, the contest will be aired on the OHL Action Pak on channel 466 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. Along with Saturday’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.

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, $179.99 for all 68 home and away Firebirds games and $279.99 for all 1,360 OHL games throughout the 2019-20 season. 

 

For more information:

Dominic Hennig
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club
dominic@flintfirebirds.com
(810) 519-9347 

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