Flint, Mich. – The Firebirds surrendered an 8 – 3 decision to the Saginaw Spirit in a heated rivalry game Wednesday at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center. More than 3,500 fans were on-hand for a game that featured a typical rivalry contest with plenty of goals, physicality and multiple major penalties. Evgeniy Oksentyuk scored, extending his point streak to six games (5G, 7A). Emmet Pierce scored his first goal of the season and Connor Roberts also lit the lamp for Flint. Both Firebirds’ netminders saw time between the pipes, with Anthony Popovich turning aside 13 of Saginaw’s 18 shots before Luke Cavallin entered the contest and made 12 saves on the final 15 shots. Tristan Lennox picked up the victory between the pipes, making 32 saves on 35 Flint shots.
With the win, Saginaw ties the season series, evening the score at one game each for the coveted I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light. Flint falls to a record of 15-9-0-0 overall and 10-4-0-0 on home ice for the season. Saginaw will visit Flint again on December 13 for another West-Division battle before the rivalry reunites the following night in Saginaw.
Grand Blanc, Mich. native Dalton Duhart lit the lamp to give the Spirit the early 1 – 0 lead. Camaryn Baber picked the pocket of a Flint player in the neutral zone and the slid the puck ahead in front of the benches. Duhart scooped it up at the blue line with a full head of steam and traversed the left circle. From the bottom of the circle, he lifted a rising wrister over Popovich’s outstretched left-pad, far-side, for his second of the season at 5:28.
The Firebirds tied the contest less than one minute later. Riley McCourt broke free all alone from the blue line in and made a late forehand-to-backhand move in front of the netminder Tristan Lennox. Lennox made the pad-save, but the rebound came to rest in the blue paint. Evgeniy Oksentyuk was able to bang home the puck across the goal line before Lennox could recover, resulting in Oksentyuk’s team-leading 13th marker of the campaign.
Just past the midway point of the opening frame, Connor Roberts lit the lamp for his seventh of the season. Roberts had a step on his defender as he streaked up center ice in control of the puck. As they crossed between the circles, his defender dove and dragged him to ice. Roberts didn’t stop, and was able to swing his horizontal stick just right, lifting the puck up and over Lennox’ right shoulder at 10:15.
Saginaw would score twice more to finish the first period with a 3 – 2 lead. First, Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild) wristed the puck far-side for his 15th of the campaign on the power play. Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers) and Cole Coskey (New York Islanders) combined for the assists on the tally, logged at 12:59. Next, Ilya Solovyov scored his third of the season. Josh Bloom emerged from a board-battle on the left-wing side and skated to high between the circles. He made a drop pass to Solovyov who was crossing paths with him. Solovyov lifted a wrister from the hashmarks that found twine over Popovich’s right shoulder at 15:05. Bloom and DJ Busdecker were credited with the helpers.
The Spirit led by one after 20 minutes, despite Flint having the advantage in shots-on-goal by a margin of 20 – 6. Saginaw scored on their only opportunity with the man-advantage and Flint came up empty on one chance of their own.
Saginaw scored their second power-play goal on their second opportunity to extend their lead to a pair. Danny Katic curled away from the left half-boards with the puck and dished to Jake Goldowski in the left-wing circle. Goldowski ripped the puck top-shelf, near-side for his seventh of the season at 5:20 of period two.
Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) helped setup Flint’s third goal, passing across the offensive zone to Braeden Kressler in the right circle. Kressler dropped a pass to Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), who blasted a one-timer on net. Lennox made the initial save, but Emmet Pierce knocked the rebound home for his first goal of the season at 13:35.
The Spirit reclaimed their two-goal lead at 17:11 on another breakaway. Millman sent a long breakout pass to Davis Codd as he crossed the offensive blue line. Codd had a Flint defender in tow but was able to shoot across his body as he skated right, but shot back just inside the left post. Millman was credited with the solo assist on Codd’s third of the season. Luke Cavallin took over goaltending duties immediately following Codd’s goal.
After a series of major penalties to both clubs, Saginaw scored to extend the lead to three at 18:28. Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders) picked up a rebound to Cavallin’s left and skated behind the cage to the goaltender’s right. The puck was knocked off his stick to Cole Perfetti on the left side of the slot, who roofed it between Cavallin and the left post for his 11th of the season.
Second-period shots were tilted in Saginaw’s favor 14 – 7, leaving Flint with the 40-minute edge of 27 – 20. Through the first two frames, the Spirit went two-for-three on the power play and Flint was unable to convert on three opportunities.
The ‘Birds started the third period with a lengthy 5-on-3 penalty-kill, which they defended successfully. However, on their next power play Flint mishandled the puck deep in their own zone, resulting in Perfetti’s second of the night from point-blank range at 10:09, shorthanded and unassisted.
Late in the game, Perfetti made a centering pass to the slot from the end line in the left-wing corner. The pass was right on the tape for Ethan Cardwell to redirect far-side for his seventh of the campaign, logged at 16:35. Third-period shots ended up 13 – 8 to visitors’ advantage, though total shots were 35 – 33 in favor of the ‘Birds. Flint couldn’t solve the Spirit’s penalty-kill, going zero-for-five on the night. Saginaw scored three on the power play and one while shorthanded.
Next Home Game:
Saturday, the Firebirds host the London Knights for the club’s fifth-annual ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ Night. Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used teddy bears or stuffed animals to the game and after the Firebirds score their first goal, fans can launch them onto the ice. There will also be Flint-made Teddy bears available to purchase for $10 on the Dort Federal Event Center concourse. All proceeds will benefit the Teddy Bear Patrol of Genesee County and St. Luke’s North End Woman’s Life (N.E.W.) Center, while supplies last. The stuffed animals will be collected and donated to Hurley Children’s Hospital – Children’s Miracle Network, Whaley Children’s Center, Michigan State Police and other the various local charities throughout Flint & Genesee County. Last year, the Firebirds donated more than 1,000 stuffed animals to the local charities. Fans are asked to bring and throw their stuffed animals in bags so that they stay dry and safe for the kids. Additionally, the first 800 fans through the doors will receive a Firebirds’ branded Christmas ornament, compliments of PFCU.
Photo Credit: Todd Boone / Flint Firebirds Hockey Club
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club