Saturday, January 21, 2006

Spirit edge Erie, gain ground on Whalers

The Saginaw Spirit gained two points on the West Division-leading Plymouth Whalers in Friday's 4-3 defeat of the Erie Otters in Erie.

The Spirit win also jumped Saginaw over Owen Sound into fifth place in the OHL Western Conference. The Spirit never trailed in the game, but had to overcome three Erie game-tying goals to secure the victory.

Ryan McDonough scored 42 seconds into the game before the Otters equalized with a Michael Blunder power-play goal three minutes later.

Saginaw and Erie then played almost 40 minutes of scoreless hockey, as the teams battled through a physical and chippy contest. The Spirit broke the 1-1 tie at 3:21 of the third when McDonough scored on the power-play from Michal Birner. But the Otters wasted no time tying the game 30 seconds later when an Erie shot went in off a Spirit player's skate. Winger Sean O'Connor (pictured), a Trenton native, was credited with the goal.

Birner scored at 15:42 during a 4-on-4, set up by a Francois Thuot pass. Erie tied quickly again, on a Ryan O'Marra power-play goal.

The game appeared to be heading to overtime, when the Spirit took advantage of a broken play in Erie's zone. Spirit forward Jesse Gimblett banged in a shot at close range that beat the Otters' Josh Disher for what would become the game-winning goal. Patrick Asselin and Ryan Berard assisted.

The Otters pulled Disher for the final 1:10 of the game, but were unable to convert to force overtime.

Thuot had 30 saves in the game and registered his first OHL assist.

Saginaw's record moves to 24-18-0-0 on the season, for 48 points and second place in the OHL West, two points behind division-leading Plymouth. The Spirit resume action Saturday night in Kitchener against the Rangers for the second of a three game road trip. The Spirit return to the Dow Event Center next Thursday to face the Whalers at 7:11 p.m.

O'Connor photo courtesy of Jim Cooper/Erie Otters.

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