Saginaw, Mich. – The Firebirds defeated the Spirit 6 – 5 in a tightly-fought West-Division battle Wednesday night in Saginaw. Evgeniy Oksentyuk scored twice, extending his point streak to 14 games (11G, 14A), which ties him with former Firebird Kole Sherwood for the longest point streak in franchise history. Riley Piercey scored twice in his debut for Flint after being acquired by trade earlier this week, and was awarded ‘First Star’ honors in the contest. Jack Wismer, Jake Durham, Owen Lalonde and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) also each earned two points in the game. Anthony Popovich made 39 saves on 44 shots to earn his 15th win between the pipes.
Emmet Pierce was first to light the lamp, giving Flint the early lead. He carried through the neutral zone and across the blue line along the right-side boards. With traffic in front of netminder Marshall Frappier, Pierce launched a rising wrister from the right face-off dot that found twine farside for his third of the season. Defensemen Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) and Owen Lalonde combined for the assists.
Cole Coskey (New York Islanders) tied the game at 6:32, netting his 20th of the campaign with a wrister from the inner edge of the right-wing circle off the cross bar. Cole Perfetti was credited with the solo assist on the play.
Riley Piercey scored his first goal in a Firebirds’ jersey at 10:36 of the opening frame to reclaim the ‘Birds lead. Jack Wismer carried across the neutral zone on the right with Piercey in tow to his left. At the top of the circles, Wismer led Piercey for a shot that beat Frappier near-side for his tenth of the season.
Less than one minute later, Jake Goldowski tied the game at two with his 10th of the season. DJ Busdeker took the initial shot from a wide angle to the right and Popovich made the save. The rebound, however, went right to Goldowski in front for the tally. Danil Antropov picked up the second assist on the tally, logged at 11:27.
First-period shots finished 19 – 11 in the Spirit’s favor. Flint didn’t get a chance with the man-advantage, but they successfully killed-off a lengthy five-on-three situation for Saginaw.
The Firebirds claimed a brief lead in the middle frame. Lalonde backhanded a pass from just inside the offensive blue line to Brennan Othmann in the right circle. Othmann forwarded a pass to Evgeniy Oksentyuk, who carried to the bottom of the circle and wristed a wide-angle shot that snuck between Frappier and the near post for his team-leading 18th of the season at 6:59.
Once again, the Spirit battled back to tie the game less than a minute later. Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers) launched a slapshot from the left point that made its way through traffic and in for his 11th at 7:39. Danny Katic and Antropov assisted on the marker.
Piercey scored his second of the night and 11th of the campaign to give the ‘Birds the 4 – 3 lead at 13:19. Tyler Deline sent the puck behind the Saginaw net from the left-wing half boards. Jake Durham gathered it behind the cage and sent the puck to Piercey, who was covering the right point. His wrist-shot found paydirt in the top corner of the net, near-side.
Saginaw tied the game at four with just over a minute remaining in the second. DJ Busdeker carried coast to coast, splitting two Flint defenders before launching the puck in the far-side top corner from the right circle. The goal was Busdeker’s seventh of the year, unassisted and recorded at 18:53.
Flint led in second-period shots 20 – 15, but were still trailing 34 – 31 after 40 minutes. Neither club took a penalty in the middle frame.
Oksentyuk struck again at 7:20 of the third period, this time on the power play. Kolyachonok was centered inside the blue line and found Oksentyuk all alone in the right circle. The Belarusian forward settled the puck, turned, and fired just inside the far post for goal number 19 in the campaign. Jack Wismer was credited with the second assist.
At 12:34, Connor Roberts extended Flint’s lead to a pair. Jake Durham made a centering pass from the right corner to Roberts in the high slot, who snapped a shot that went between Frappier’s outstretched left pad and the post. The goal was Roberts’ 12th of the season.
Danny Katic logged a power-play tally at 15:44 to cut the home team’s deficit to a single goal. The initial slapshot from the point hit a body in front and came to rest in the high slot. Katic was able to backhand the puck up high, blocker side for his seventh. Millman and Grand Blanc, Mich. native Dalton Duhart combined for the helpers.
The Spirit pulled Frappier to the bench for the extra attacker in the final minute and change, but to no avail. The Firebirds’ defense and a few key saves by Popovich preserved the victory.
Saginaw outshot Flint 10 – 5 in the final frame, and finished with a 44 – 36 advantage for the night. Flint scored one power-play goal on three chances, and limited the Spirit to one goal on four opportunities. The ‘Birds finished with a slight edge in the faceoff circles, leading 27 – 25.
Next Home Game:
The Firebirds host the Spirit back in Flint Friday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. (ET) at the Dort Federal Event Center. The game marks another of the ‘Firebirds 4 Pack Fridays,’ sponsored by Little Caesars Pizza! d the deal: Fans can get 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 soft drinks starting at just $60:
Firebirds 4 Pack packages are only available for Friday games in advance of game day. For more information, contact the Dort Federal Event Center Box Office by calling (810) 744-0580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Eric Young / Dream Bigger Media
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Flint Firebirds Hockey Club