Saginaw, Mich. – The Firebirds scored four unanswered goals to spoil their in-state rivals’ opening night Saturday, posting a 4-1 victory in front of 4,125 fans at the Dow Event Center. 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 to earn the Firebirds a 1-0 lead in the I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light.
The Spirit scored the first goal of the opening frame at the 15:45 mark. Ilya Solovyov made the breakout pass from his own end, sending Camaryn Baber into the offensive zone between two Flint defenders. Baber made a drop pass to Cole Coskey (New York Islanders) at the top of the right circle. Coskey lifted a shot top-shelf, short side for his second of the season.
Flint tied the game with under a minute remaining in the first period. Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) made the breakout pass up the left-wing wall to Evgeniy Oksentyuk, who chipped the puck forward to Jake Durham. Durham made a move around his lone defender as he passed through the left circle and showed patience. He crossed the goal crease and beat the sliding netminder Tristan Lennox far-side over his outstretched left pad for his second of the season and first of the night, logged at 19:29. The game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Durham found the back of the net again off a two-on-one breakaway with Connor Roberts. Durham carried across the blue line up the right side, with Roberts pacing him on the left. Durham delivered a tape-to-tape pass as Roberts hit the high slot and the puck was sent back to middle of the right circle. Durham unleashed a laser top-shelf at 8:23.
The ‘Birds maintained the 2 – 1 edge after 40 minutes of play. Flint was unable to convert either of two opportunities with the man-advantage, and they killed all three penalties taken successfully.
Then, Hunter Holmes pounced on a loose puck along the left wall in his offensive zone. He cycled the it back to the near corner, where Evan Vierling gained control and made a perfect pass past two defenders and across the mouth of the goal crease to a wide-open Brennan Othmann. The first-year forward lifted the one-timer top shelf from his back-door perch to earn his first-career OHL goal at 5:54 of period three.
Flint increased their lead to 4-1 with Spirit netminder Tristan Lennox on the bench for the extra attacker in the final minute of play. Jake Durham buried a rebound off Vladislav Kolyachonok’s (Florida Panthers) shot to complete the hat trick. Connor Roberts was given the second assist which was his second helper of the game.
Saginaw outshot the ‘Birds 35 – 21 in the contest and won 35 of 51 face-offs. Both teams were unable to convert on three power-play chances. Durham earned first star honors and Othmann was awarded third star. These two clubs will face-off again on Wednesday, November 27 at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint.
2019-20 Home Opening Weekend:
The Firebirds’ Home Opening night at the Dort Federal Event Center is Saturday, September 28. The club will host the Niagara IceDogs, with puck drop slated for 7:00 p.m. (ET). Many fun promotions are scheduled including all fans in attendance receiving a 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, in addition to bounce houses for the kids and other fun promotions will take place during the duration of the game.
The Firebirds are also hosting their inaugural cornhole tournament before the game! 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.
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.
Photo Credit: Todd Boone / Flint Firebirds
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club