Firebirds Win the Flint Michigan Megabowl
Flint, Mich. - Inspired by the movie Semi-Pro starring Will Ferrell, "The Firebirds won the Flint Michigan Mega Bowl Saturday night!" FlintÂ defeatedÂ the visiting Guelph Storm on the club's annual "Flint Tropics Night." The victory extended their winning streak to a franchise-best 12 games, and was the team's 34th victory, another new milestone. It also tied the beset-ever home win-streak at five consecutive games. Jack Phibbs lit the lamp twice and was named the game's 'First Star', Quinn Yule logged one goal and an assist, and Emmet Pierce recorded two helpers. Anthony Popovich made several key saves in the contest, totaling 24 stops on 27 shots through 65 minutes of play. He shut down four of Guelph's five shootout attempts to earn his 23rd victory between the pipes this season, another club record.
The Firebirds scored the lone marker of the opening period, just past the midway point. Emmet Pierce controlled the puck behind the Guelph cage and slid a pass through traffic to Jack Phibbs in the high slot. Phibbs roofed it glove-side for his 13th of the season, assisted by Pierce and Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) at 11:25. Flint outshot the Storm 13 - 11 and won 12 of 21 draws in the first 20 minutes.
Flint's lead doubled at 13:18 of the middle frame. Phibbs made the centering pass from the right-wing half-boards to Yule centered between the circles. As Yule skated to his left, he shot down-low back to his right and snuck the shot under netminder Owen Bennet for his fourth of the season and third since joining the Firebirds at the trade deadline. Pierce picked up the second assist. Second-period shots were 12 - 6 in Flint's favor, giving them the 40-minute advantage of 25 - 17. Guelph controlled the majority of the draws to lead 26 - 17 after two periods.
Guelph tied the game quickly in the third frame on two goals from Cam Hillis (Montreal Canadians). First, he made a neutral-zone pass to Pavel Gogolev on the left wall. Gogolev carried across the blue line and sent a return feed to Hillis streaking up the middle of the offensive zone. He rifled a wrister that went over Popovich's left pad for his 20th of the campaign at 4:09.
Hillis found twine again less than three minutes later. He carried up the right-wing side from the center-ice red line to above the right-wing circle. From there, he used a Flint defender as a screen and sniped a shot top corner, near-side. Eric Uba and Daniil Chayka combined for the assists on the score, logged at 7:01.
Gogolev potted his team-leading 38th of the season just past the midway point of the third to give the Storm their first lead of the evening. He carried through the slot from Popovich's right side to his left before lifting a backhander just inside the near post at 10:24. Former Firebird Michael Bianconi and Luke Profaca were credited with the assists.
Jack Phibbs found paydirt again to tie the score at 17:16. Connor Roberts had possession deep in the right corner of his offensive zone. He dished the puck around the boards to Yule behind the Storm net. Yule passed to the oncoming Phibbs at the inner edge of the right circle, and the one-timer connected for his second of the night and 14th of campaign.
The game required extra time to be settled. Shots through 60 minutes were 35 - 25 to the Birds' advantage. Guelph had won 35 faceoffs to flint's 25. Both clubs were empty in two power-play opportunities during regulation.
The Firebirds had five shots on net in overtime to just two from the Storm, but the game remained tied after the five-minute three-on-three. It would take a shootout to settle the score. With the 11-game winning streak on the line, Riley McCourt and Dennis Busby found twine in rounds three and five of the shootout to seal the victory.
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