Flint, Mich. – The Firebirds play their regular-season home-opener when they host the Niagara IceDogs Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center (capacity 4,400).
In home-openers, Flint holds an all-time record of 3-1-0-0. In that span, they’ve hosted and defeated the Saginaw Spirit twice and the Ottawa 67’s once. Last season, the London Knights skated away with a 4 – 2 victory to end the ‘Birds streak at three. Through the four home-opener contests, Flint has outscored their opponents by a margin of 14 – 10.
Flint played two road contests last weekend. They surrendered the first two points of the season to the Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday. Saturday night the ‘Birds spoiled the Spirit’s home-opener in Saginaw, posting a 4-1 victory in front of 4,125 fans. Flint’s Anthony Popovich made 34 saves on 35 shots, Jake Durham recorded a hat-trick, Connor Roberts tallied two assists and Brennan Othmann recorded his first-career OHL goal. The Firebirds took the early 1-0 lead in the annual I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light.
The IceDogs have played three games this season, defeating Sudbury 6 – 3 in their home-opener before taking a 3 – 1 win from the Steelheads in Mississauga. Thursday night, they played Oshawa at home and earned a point in a 4 – 3 overtime defeat to the Generals before traveling to Flint Friday.
The last time the ‘Birds and ‘Dogs met in the regular season was Jan. 19 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catherines, Ont. Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) and Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) scored one each for the ‘Birds. Luke Cavallin made 42 saves between the pipes, but Niagara’s offense got the upper hand and finished with a 7 – 2 advantage.
Saturday night marks the first of two regular-season meetings between these clubs this campaign, and the only meeting in Flint. Last season, the ‘Dogs won both contests en-route to winning the Central Division title. All-time, Flint is 1-6-1-0 against Niagara and is 1-2-1-0 on home ice in the series.
On special teams, the Firebirds kill penalties at a rate of 80.0%, which is tied for 11th-best in the OHL. Niagara’s penalty-killers rank sixth at 88.9% efficiency through three games. With the man-advantage, the IceDogs rank fifth, scoring at a 27.3% clip. Flint is one of three teams yet to log a power-play goal after two contests.
Return of the Captain:
The Firebirds welcome back Dallas Stars’ prospect Ty Dellandrea as the club’s captain for the second consecutive year. He played in one preseason game with Flint this year before attending the Stars’ training camp. After camp, Dellandrea was asked to remain with his NHL club through three preseason NHL games. He gained more than 42 minutes of NHL time-on-ice (TOI) experience and registered three hits, two shots-on-goal and one takeaway. This season, Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Dennis Busby and Jake Durham will serve as alternate captains. In addition, Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Ethan Keppen will rotate with Florida Panthers’ prospect Vladislav Kolyachonok as the club’s third alternate captain. Keppen will serve as an alternate captain for all road games, while Kolyachonok will serve as an alternate captain for all home games.
Many fun promotions are scheduled around opening night, including a cornhole tournament before for puck drop. Also, all fans in attendance will receive a free rally towel, compliments of Dort Federal Credit Union. The official Flint Firebirds’ magnet schedule will be handed out to fans as they exit the building Saturday night. There will also be bounce houses for the kids and other fun promotions during the duration of the game. Also, fans that purchase a ticket for Saturday’s Opening Night will receive half-off admission for Sunday’s game by presenting their ticket stub to the box office.
Here’s the details for the cornhole tournament! The tournament will consist of two divisions, social and competitive, and teams consist of two players each. Day of registration begins at Noon. The tournament starts at 2:00 p.m. leading up to the Firebirds game at 7:00 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the Flint Firebirds Charitable Foundation which was created to support youth in education and sports programs in Genesee and Lapeer Counties. Full details and registration available HERE.
Players to Watch
Flint Firebirds (1-1-0-0, 3rd West Division):
Veteran forward Jake Durham only appeared in two pre-season contests before heading to Columbus for the Blue Jackets’ training camp, but scored a hat-trick in one of the games and logged a single goal in the other. His four goals were the most by any OHL player who only participated in two games during exhibition. Durham started the regular season on the same pace, scoring four goals and adding an assist through the first two games. His four goals are the third-most of the regular season thus far in the OHL, his five total points have him tied for sixth, and his plus/minus rating of ‘+5’ is tied for third-best in the OHL.
Connor Roberts has a goal and two assists for three points, which is second-most to Durham. Three players are tied for third with two points after two games. Cody Morgan has a goal and an assist, then rearguard Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) and rookie forward Evgeniy Oksentyuk each have two assists. Busby is tied for seventh in plus/minus after the league’s first week with a ‘+3’ rating.
Oksentyuk and second-year forward Emmet Pierce finished the pre-season tied for the third-most assists in the OHL, each with five total helpers. Freshman forward Brennan Othmann, the clubs first-round draft pick for this season (2nd overall), scored four goals in four games. Among all OHL rookies his total goals-scored were second-best, and his goal-per-game average topped the charts. Othmann’s six total points (4G, 2A) were third-most among rookies and tied for 11th-most among all skaters. He scored his first official regular-season goal in the OHL last Saturday in Saginaw.
Riley McCourt, who attended the Boston Bruins training camp recently, finished in the top ten (T-6th) among defenseman in the preseason with four points (2G, 2A) in four games-played. Both McCourt and Michael Bianconi scored two goals in three exhibition games, which ranked them tied for second among defensemen. First-year blue-liner Jack Harper earned three assists in the exhibition games, which was tied for third-most among all rookie skaters, and he finished third in +/- with a +4 rating.
In net, recently-acquired overage netminder Anthony Popovich backstopped the Guelph Storm to the OHL championship a season ago. He missed the OHL pre-season to spend time with the Detroit Wings at their training camp in Traverse City. Last game, Popovich stopped 34 of 35 shots-faced in Saginaw for his first win in the Firebirds’ sweater. Through two contests, he carries 3.50 goals-against average (GAA) and a save percentage (SAV%) of .900 with on victory.
NHL: The Firebirds have four players with NHL ties consisting of Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers). In addition, Jake Durham (Columbus Blue Jackets), Riley McCourt (Boston Bruins), Cody Morgan (Detroit Red Wings), Evgeniy Oksentyuk (Arizona Coyotes) and Anthony Popovich (Detroit Red Wings) were invited to NHL Training Camps this year.
Despite Flint playing in just four OHL seasons thus far, Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets) are two former Firebirds to play in the NHL. Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) have played in NHL pre-season contests. In total, the team has produced 17 signed or drafted players into the NHL.
Niagara IceDogs (2-0-1-0, 1st West Division):
Second-round NHL draft pick Akil Thomas (Los Angeles Kings) is the top returning scorer for the IceDogs. A season ago he posted an impressive 102 points (38G, 64A) in 63 games-played. First-round NHL draft pick Phillip Tomasino (Nashville Predators) finished with 72 points (34G, 38A) in 67 games. Oliver Castleman had the third-most points of the returning forwards with 40 points (21G, 19A) through 62 contests. This season, Tomasino and Castleman are tied for the team lead, each with six points (2G, 4A) through three games. Kyen Sopa scored the first goal in each of Niagara’s first two games, and has three goals plus one assist in total.
Drew Hunter and Elijah Roberts lead the defensman for the ‘Dogs, each with three points. Hunter has a goal and two assists and Roberts has three helpers. Among all OHL defensemen, their three points have them tied for third.
Netminder Christian Sbaraglia played only four regular-season games with Niagara last season. He enters this year as the most experienced goaltender on the roster but is in the midst of a suspension. He played in two preseason contests, posting a 3.53 goals-against averages (GAA) and a save-percentage (SAV%) of .914. Thus far in the regular season, Sbaraglia has the fifth-best GAA at 2.27 and ranks second with a .940 SAV%. Newcomer Tucker Tynan has appeared in all three games this season, posting a 2.93 GAA with a .937 GAA along with both Niagara victories.
NHL: The IceDogs have two players with NHL ties this season, Akil Thomas (Los Angeles Kings) and Phillip Tomasino (Nashville Predators). In addition, Jacob Paquette was invited to the Columbus Blue Jackets camp earlier this month.
Notable IceDogs’ alumni to play in the NHL include Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jamie Oleksiak, Brett Ritchie, and Andrew Shaw
Saturday evening’s contest against the Niagara IceDogs 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. Dominic Hennig will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening.
The game will also be televised live in Niagara on YourTV channel 10 / 700 (HD) for Cogeco TV cable subscribers and across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 458 for Rogers TV cable subscribers and 489 for 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, $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:
Opening weekend continues Sunday when the Firebirds host the Sarnia Sting at 2 p.m. Sunday’s game is the first Firebirds’ Family “FUN”day. The Sunday “FUN”day games feature up to two free kids’ tickets (12 & under) with the purchase of an adult ticket, as well as a post-game ‘skate with Firebirds players, and bounce houses for the kids. The official Flint Firebirds’ magnet schedule will be handed out to fans as they exit the building.
There will also be a Car Show from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Dort Federal Event Center Parking Lot. Fans with concept cars or out-of-production classics can show off their cars, receive 2 Silver Level Tickets and free parking for $20! In addition, the first 50 cars registered will receive a FREE hockey and Hot Rods T-shirt.
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 & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club