Firebirds Host Saginaw Friday in Flint
Flint, Mich. - The Firebirds areÂ set to host their in-state and division rival from Saginaw in Flint's final home game before the holiday break and game three of the I-75 Divide Cup, sponsored by Coors Light. Puck drop versus the Spirit is set for 7 p.m. (ET) Friday at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center (cap. 4,400).
Both clubs are having similar success this season. The Firebirds have played 29 games to date, earning an overall record of 18-11-0-0 which also totals 36 points. Flint is tied with Saginaw and the Windsor Spitfires for first in the West Division, and the 'Birds rank second in the Western Conference. On home ice Flint's record is 11-5-0-0, whereas Saginaw is 8-4-2-0 on the road. Saginaw has played 30 of their 68 regular-season games so far, and they carry a record of 16-10-2-2 for 36 points in the standings. The Spirit are tied for first place in the West Division and rank fourth in the 10-team Western Conference.
The season series between Flint and Saginaw is tied 1-1, heading into game three tonight. All-time, FlintÂ is 11-21-0-2 against the Spirit and 6-9-0-2 on home ice in the series. For the fifth consecutive season, the team who wins the most regular-season meetings between the two clubs will take home the coveted I-75 Divide Cup,Â sponsored by Coors Light. In each of the first two seasons, the Cup remained in Flint. The Spirit claimed the Cup the last two seasons, thus tying the Cup series at two wins each heading into this year.
Friday night marks the third of eight regular-season meetings annually between these clubs, and the second of four in Flint. When these clubs met in Saginaw on September 21, the FirebirdsÂ scored fourÂ unanswered goals to spoil their in-state rivals' opening night. MostÂ recently however, Saginaw tied the season series at the Dort Federal Event Center on November 27. Grand Blanc, Mich. native Dalton Duhart lit the lamp to give the Spirit the early lead, and the visitors went on to claim an 8 - 3 decision in a heated rivalry game. A near capacity crowd of more than 3,500 fans filled the Dort Federal Event Center for a game that featured plenty of goals, physicalityÂ and multiple major penalties.
Noteworthy is the fact that for the first time, brothers will face-off against one another as part of the I-75 Divide Cup. Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild) is a fourth-year forward with the Spirit. In 217 regular-season games, 19-year-old Damien has scored 75 goals and has 147 total points. Zacharie Giroux is a justÂ 16 years old and was recently called up to Flint from the Rayside Balfour Canadians in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL). He recorded two points in two preseason games with Flint before joining the Canadians. Since being called up last week, the 16-year-old Zacharie has recorded a point in each of his three games. He scored his first OHL goal in just his third game last Sunday in North Bay, Ont.
Despite SaginawÂ receiving their leading scorer Cole Perfetti back from Team Canada Friday, both clubs will still be missing key players. Saginaw will be missing at least four players in Blade Jenkins, Tristan Lennox, Mason Millman andÂ Ilya Solovyov. Flint will be missing at least seven players in Ryan Bangs, Ty Dellandrea, Peyton Grainer, Marcus Gretz, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Evgeniy Oksentyuk and Evan Vierling.
On special teams, the Spirit rank 17th with the man-advantage, converting at a rate of 18.5%. The Firebirds are scoring at a 16.3% clip on the power play. When short-handed, Saginaw is killing penalties with an 82.6% success-rate, which is fourth-best in the OHL. Flint's overall penalty-kill success rate is 78.6%, which is league's ninth-best efficiency. On home ice this season, Flint has the fourth-best penalty kill in the OHL, shutting down the opposition at an 84.3% clip.
The Firebirds are hosting a toy drive where fans canÂ receive aÂ complimentary ticket to the game,Â courtesy of Dort Federal Credit Union, by bringing in a NEW toy with a minimum value of $10 to benefit The Old Newsboys of Flint, a non-profit organization that serves underprivileged children in the community. Starting Monday, Dec. 10Â fans can bring in their new toy ahead of time to the Firebirds' merchandise store "The Bird's Nest" to secure their seat for the game.
The Firebirds will also be wearing specialÂ "Star Wars" themed jerseysÂ that fans can bid on immediately following the game in aÂ live jersey auction. All proceeds will be donated to The Old Newsboys of Flint. Additionally, the first 500 fans in attendance will receive aÂ free light sword, compliments of Dort Federal Credit Union and get a picture with some of your favoriteÂ Star Wars Fan CostumersÂ who will be in attendance, compliments of 501stÂ Legion.
Friday's game is also a Firebirds' 4-pack Friday, featuring 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 soft drinks starting at just $60! Firebirds 4 Pack packages are only available for Friday games in advance of game day.
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 callingÂ (810) 744-0580, in-person at the Dort Federal Event Center Box Office or online atÂ ticketmaster.com here.
Players to Watch:
Flint Firebirds (18-11-0-0, T-1st West Division):
Defenseman Riley McCourt leads the active Firebirds in scoring with 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 29 games. He ranks seventh among all OHL defensemen in total points, is tied for eighth-most assists, and his 10 goals are tied for fourth-most among the league's rearguards. McCourt rides a four-game point streak (1G, 3A) into Friday's contest, and was named last week'sÂ OHL 'On the Run' Player of the WeekÂ with eight points (3G, 5A) over three games.
Jake Durham has 13 goals and 14 helpers through 29 games-played. Already the all-time leader in games-played by any player in franchise history (231), Durham is now just one goal away from tying former Flint forward Nick Caamano for the third-most goals in franchise history at 67. Cody Morgan ranks third among active players this weekend with 25 points (8G, 17A) in 29 games.
Brennan Othmann continues to lead the freshman class with 13 total points, which is tied for eighth-most among all OHL rookies. He is also tied for eighth with eight helpers in the campaign.
Between the pipes, Anthony PopovichÂ has appeared in 20 games this season. His 12 wins are sixth-most among OHL netminders. He carries a 3.62 goals-against average (GAA) and is tied for the league's eighth-best save-percentage (SAV%) at .898. Luke CavallinÂ now has six wins in 12 appearances, along with a 3.79 GAA. Cavallin is also tied for eighth in the OHL with a .898 SAV%.
NHL:Â The Firebirds have four players with NHL ties consisting of Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers). In addition, Evan Vierling was named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting November 'Players to Watch' list.
Despite Flint beingÂ inÂ the midst of just theirÂ fifthÂ OHL season, three former Firebirds have already played in NHL regular-season games:Â Nick CaamanoÂ (Dallas Stars), Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets). Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) have played in NHL pre-season contests. In total, the team has produced an impressive 17 drafted or signed NHL players in that short time.
Saginaw Spirit (16-10-2-2, T-1stÂ West Division):
Cole Perfetti leads the Spirit in both assists (30) and total points (45). He ranks ninth in the OHL in both categories. His 13 power-play helpers are tied for fourth-most along with teammate Ilya Solovlov. Cole Coskey ranks second on the club with 35 total points (14G, 21A). Coskey is tied for the most insurance goals in the league with four this season. Damien GirouxÂ is third with 28 points, including a team-high 18 tallies. Giroux has eight power-play markers, which are tied for third-most in the OHL.
First-year forward Ethan Cardwell tops the freshman class for Saginaw with nine goals and five assists through 28 games-played. His 14 points are tied for eighth-most among all rookies, and his nine goals are tied for third-most.
In net, Marshall Frappier has now appeared in 11 games this season, logging six victories and earning a 3.30 GAA with a .881 SAV%. Frappier has two shutouts this campaign, which is tied for second-most at this point of the season.
NHL:Â The Spirit have fiveÂ players with NHL ties on their roster, consisting of Jackson, Mich. native Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders), Cole Coskey (New York Islanders), Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild), Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers) and Bode Wilde (New York Islanders). Additionally, Cole Perfetti and Ilya Solovyov were named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting November 'Players to Watch' list.
12 notable Spirit alumni to play in the NHL are Cody Bass, Paul Bissonnette, T.J. Brodie, Matt Corrente, Filip Hronek, Jan Mursak, Jamie Oleksiak, Dalton Prout, Tom Pyatt, Brandon Saad, Chris Thorburn and Vincent Trocheck.
FridayÂ evening's contest against Saginaw can be heardÂ live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM, online atÂ www.us103.comÂ or by downloading theÂ US 103 app here. Firebirds' broadcasterÂ Dominic HennigÂ will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 6:30 p.m.Â New this season, fans can watch the FHN TV Pregame Show live onÂ FacebookÂ andÂ Twitter, also beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 462 for Rogers TV cable subscribers and channel 487 for Cogeco TV cable subscribers. OHL fans with cable television in Ontario can add the OHL Action Pak to their television plan to catch the Firebirds in action, home or away all season long. Along withÂ Friday's game, 65 of the Firebirds' 68 games throughout the 2019-20 seasonÂ are also scheduled to be televised live across the province of OntarioÂ on the OHL Action Pak.
Through Saginaw's partnership, the game will also be televised on a tape-delayed basis throughout Mid-Michigan on Sunday,Â DecemberÂ 15th at 6 p.m. (ET) on WNEM-TV5 Plus. The channel can be found on 5.2 via antennae over the air, channel 199 for Charter Cable subscribers and channel 4 for Comcast/Xfinity cable subscribers.
All Flint Firebirds home and away games throughout the 2019-20 season can be watched anywhere in the world online onÂ www.ohllive.comÂ or on theÂ OHL Live app.Â OHL Live is a league video streaming platform that delivers high quality live and on-demand coverage of all regular season and playoff games annually. The cost is $6.99 per game, $69.99 for Flint Firebirds away games only, $149.99 for all 68 home and away Firebirds games and $179.99 for all 1,360 OHL games throughout the 2019-20 season.
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