Flint, Mich. – The Flint Firebirds improved to 7-1-0-0 on home ice Friday night to move back into first place both in the Western Conference and the West Division, defeating the visiting Mississauga Steelheads 5 – 3. After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Firebirds battled back and scored five unanswered goals for the victory. Riley McCourt lit-the-lamp twice, Connor Roberts found twine, Evgeniy Oksentyuk scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot and Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) sealed the victory on an empty net. Between-the-pipes, Luke Cavallin made 25 saves on 28 shots en-route to his fourth win on the season. With the victory, Flint improves to 11-5-0-0 overall on the season.
Of note, Jake Durham set a franchise record for most games-played in a Firebirds’ uniform, surpassing Hakon Nilsen with 218 games in the orange & navy blue. Durham is also on a franchise record 208 consecutive games played since October of 2016.
Mississauga took the early lead at 6:20 of the first period. Aidan Preuter centered the puck from behind the Flint net. Defenseman Thomas Harley (Dallas Stars) fired a shot over Cavallin’s right shoulder from high between the circles. It was Harley’s team-leading ninth of the campaign, assisted by Preuter and Max Dodig.
On the Steelheads’ second goal, Nicholas Canade made the initial pass from the left-wing wall to Nick Isaacson between the circles. Isaacson passed to Richard Whittaker on his right, who took put shot a net from the right-wing circle. Isaacson tapped in the rebound from the doorstep for his seventh of the season at 16:16.
The Fish went up by three at the 18:36 mark on Canade’s first tally of the season. Two players from each club were fighting for the puck along the right-wing half-board, and the puck found its way to Canade at the point. He leaned into a heavy slapper that went just over Cavallin’s glove, far-side.
First-period shots favored the Firebirds 15 – 12 through the opening 20 minutes. Flint also held the edge in faceoffs 12 – 8. There were no penalties called in period number one.
Riley McCourt scored a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the second period. First, he scored his fifth of the campaign on the power play. His first shot from the top of the left circle was blocked by the defense, but he picked up the loose puck and launched a second shot from his left knee that surprised netminder Kai Edmunds. The tally was logged at exactly 18:00, and assisted by Jake Durham and Cody Morgan. He scored his second of the night and sixth of the campaign at 19:15. Then, with everyone battling on the right side of the offensive zone, McCourt pinched in from the left point. Evan Vierling found the open man, and McCourt launched a wrister from the left side of the high slot to bring the game within one. Vierling and Connor Roberts combined for the assists on the second marker.
Once again, the Firebirds outshot the Steelheads 13 – 9 in the middle frame for a two-period shot advantage of 28 – 21. Flint scored once on two power-play opportunities in the middle frame.
The Firebirds then tied the contest at 7:51 of the final frame. Owen Lalonde fired a slap-pass from the right point to Connor Roberts gliding through the left circle. Roberts redirected the pass through the five-hole on Edmunds. The tying goal was Roberts’ fifth of the season, assisted by Lalonde and Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars).
Evgeniy Oksentyuk was awarded a penalty shot at 3:06 of the third period. He skated far to the left side of the offensive zone before approaching the slot. He continuously moved the puck from forehand to backhand as he approached. Once he earned the commitment of Edmunds with an attempted poke-check, he slid the puck to his left before wrapping it around the goaltender’s out-stretched right pad and just inside the near post.
Then, Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) scored the fifth goal for Flint on an empty-net, emerging from the neutral zone all alone with an empty cage in front of him. Jack Phibbs earned the assist.
Final shots on goal were 46 – 28 in favor of the Firebirds. In the faceoff circles, Flint won 38 draws compared to 23 for the Steelheads.
Next Home Game:
Saturday is the club’s fifth-Annual “Military Appreciation” game. Complimentary Silver Level tickets are available for all veterans and active duty military personnel with valid identification, courtesy of The DM Burr Group, Martin’s Tire & Service, Williams Gun Sight Company, Security First Insurance Agency, Inc., AMD Urgent Care, LJ Inc. and The View Newspaper Group. Discounted tickets at $10 are available for family members who accompany the veterans and active duty military personnel. Additionally, a Firebirds’ branded military t-shirt will be on sale at the Firebirds’ merchandise store, The Birds Nest.
There will also be an oversized flag presentation during the pregame national anthems, in partnership with Genesee Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), compliments of Gander Outdoors. During the first intermission fans will see a live induction ceremony on the ice and in the second intermission there will be an on-ice hockey shoot-out between the local military service branch representatives, presented by Zodiac Enterprises LLC. Additionally, there will be a 10% discount for all veterans and active duty military personnel at the Firebirds’ official merchandise store, the Birds Nest.
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 Event Center Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com here.
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communication
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club