Flint, Mich. – The Firebirds dropped a 7 – 4 decision to the visiting Saginaw Spirit in a very physical rivalry match in front of nearly 3,000 fans Friday night. For Flint, Jack Wismer scored twice and both Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) each potted a goal. Evgeniy Oksentyuk extended his point streak to 15 games with a pair of assists, setting a new record for the longest point streak by any player in Flint’s franchise history. Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) also had two helpers in his first game back since winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior’s in the Czech Republic last week. Saginaw was led offensively by Cole Coskey (New York Islanders) and Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild) with two tallies each.
Giroux gave the Spirit the early lead at 14:21 of the opening frame. With Flint on the power play, a neutral-zone turnover sprung Giroux up the right side on a two-on-one break with a teammate in tow to the left. Giroux held onto the puck and hit the brakes before moving around his defender and lifting a wrister top-shelf from the high slot for his 25th of the season, unassisted.
Danil Antropov set up Saginaw’s second goal with a short pass from the right corner to Jake Goldowski at the right faceoff dot. Goldowski’s one-timer snuck inside the far post for his 11th of the campaign at 17:04, assisted by Antropov and Danny Katic.
The Firebirds cut the deficit in half in the final minute of the first period. With the man-advantage, Riley McCourt sent the puck to Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) below the goal line in the left-wing corner. Flint’s Captain centered the puck to Wismer who was waiting on the doorstep. Wismer’s point-blank shot slipped under netminder Tristan Lennox for his 10th of the season at 19:21.
First-period shots were even at 12 per side. Saginaw won 10 faceoffs to Flint’s nine. The Firebirds scored one power-play tally on two chances and kept Saginaw out the net with one opportunity with the man-advantage.
Giroux struck again with his second of the night and 26th of the season at 3:31 of period two. Nick Suzuki (Carolina Hurricanes) gathered a loose puck at the right point and found Giroux all alone rushing up center ice. Giroux snapped the puck down low, far side from the inner edge of the left circle.
The ‘Birds responded less than a minute later on a set play off the offensive-zone faceoff. Ethan Keppen won the draw in the left circle and charged into the left corner. Brennan Othmann tapped the puck to Riley Piercey, who immediately sent a pass back to Keppen. With a burst of speed, Keppen skated behind the Spirit netminder and completed a wraparound just out of reach of Lennox’s left pad for his 13th.
Wismer lit the lamp for his second of the night at 7:47 to tie the game at three, once again on the power play. Oksentyuk made a perfect cross-ice pass from the right-wing faceoff dot to Wismer on the left. Wismer dropped to one knee as he rifled a one-timer past Lennox, near-side. Oksentyuk and Tyler Tucker (St. Louis Blues) combined for the assists.
Cole Coskey netted a pair of goals to give the visitors a 5 – 3 lead heading into the second intermission. First, he was on the receiving end of a pass on a two-on-one breakaway with Cole Perfetti, which he one-timed in at 10:51. Next, he scored his 22nd of the campaign at 16:48 with a wrister from the right circle, assisted by Suzuki and Perfetti.
Second-period shots were 13 – 12 in Saginaw’s favor, giving them the 40-minute edge of 25 – 24. The Firebirds won nine faceoffs to the Spirit’s 13 in the middle stanza. Flint scored on one of two power-play chances again, and held the Spirit off the special-teams scoreboard with another successful penalty-kill.
Davis Codd scored his fourth of the season at 5:45 of third to increase Saginaw’s lead to three. He passed across the blue line from the right point to Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders) on the left. Jenkins completed the give-and-go back to Codd in the right circle, where he wristed a shot off the far post and in.
The intensity picked up through the remainder of the third period with some huge hits and a couple guys dropping the gloves. Both netminders made huge saves. Inside the final five minutes, Dellandrea made an impressive saucer-pass to Oksentyuk all alone in front of the visitor’s net, and Lennox made a great kick-save. Vladislav Kolyachonok knocked home the rebound with 4:20 remaining in regulation for his ninth of the season. Flint called Popovich to the bench for an extra attacker with under three minutes remaining, but Katic hit the empty net with 2:23 to go for his eight goal, unassisted.
With the victory, the Spirit take a 4 – 2 lead in the eight-game series known as the I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light. The clubs meet again at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw on Valentine’s Day.
Flint finished ahead in shots 37 – 32 and the Spirit had the overall advantage in faceoffs 31 – 27. The ‘Birds top-ranked home-ice penalty kill stopped both of Saginaw’s power-play chances, while Flint’s power-play unit scored twice in four attempts. The clubs combined for 30 penalty minutes in total.
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