Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saginaw beats Ottawa, four out of first

The Saginaw Spirit won a wild one before a sellout crowd Saturday night, defeating the Ottawa 67's, 7-5.

The lead changed hands three times as the Spirit came back from a 5-4 deficit to take the victory. The win, combined with Plymouth's loss, puts the Spirit just four points out of the West Division lead. The Spirit's 44 points ties last season's point total, with 28 games remaining.

Saginaw opened the scoring halfway through the first period when forward Tim Priamo banged in a loose puck in front of Ottawa's net. Forwards Michal Birner and Ryan McDonough assisted. The Spirit jumped up 2-0 less than three minutes later, when forward Tom Craig (pictured) scored his first OHL goal on a shot from the bottom of the circle. McDonough and Priamo assisted. The third Spirit goal came four minutes after that when McDonough drew Ottawa's Danny Battochio across the crease, then went up high for the goal. Forwards Ryan Berard and Vaclav Meidl assisted, their first points in Spirit uniforms.

Saginaw extended its lead to 4-0 in the first minute of the second period when forward Patrick Asselin scored shorthanded, from linemate Michal Birner. The goal was Saginaw's last for nearly a period and a half as Ottawa took the momentum away from the Spirit.

The 67's cracked the shutout at 11:27 of the second when overage captain Julian Talbot scored on the power play. The 67's cut the Spirit lead to 4-2 when Talbot scored again on a wrist shot that trickled through Spirit goalie Ryan Daniels' legs.

The Spirit carried a 4-2 lead into the third period, but Ottawa cut the lead to 4-3 at 2:53 of the period when overage forward Chris Hulit scored on the power play on a one-timer. The game-tying goal came just 22 seconds later when winger Jamie McGinn scored on a deflected shot. Ottawa surged ahead of the Spirit 5-4, when winger Matt Lahey found a loose puck in front of the Spirit net and put it home. But the momentum was about to swing back to Saginaw after the Lahey goal.

Saginaw tied the game 5-5 :44 seconds after Ottawa's go-ahead goal, when Spirit captain Patrick McNeill fired a wrist shot from near the blue line. The puck took an awkward bounce off a 67's player and went in. Primao and Zack Torquato assisted. The Spirit pressed Ottawa and went ahead 6-5 at 10:04 of the period, when defenseman Matt Corrente scored from McDonough and Birner.

The Spirit and 67's played nine minutes of back-and-forth action before Saginaw killed a late penalty, then scored on Ottawa's empty net to secure the 7-5 win. The empty-netter was Birner's, from McDonough and Torquato. Birner's four empty-net goals is a team record.

McDonough's goal and four assists ties a team record of five points, set by McNeill earlier this season and former Spirit forward Geoff Platt in the 2003-04 season. Daniels had 37 saves in the effort.

The win takes Saginaw's record to 22-18-0-0 on the season, good for 44 points.

Saginaw resumes action Sunday at 2:00 p.m. versus the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. It's Family Faith Day with performances and inspiration after the game from speaker Brian Molitor and Craig Lang and Driven.

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