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Preview: Firebirds Host the Niagara IceDogs Saturday

December 12, 2017 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL) - Flint Firebirds News Release

Flint, Mich. - The Flint Firebirds play their second game of a three-game weekend in Flint. Puck drop is set against the Eastern Conference's Niagara IceDogs at the Dort Federal Event Center for the third-annual "Teddy Bear Toss" Night with Joe Kocur.

Niagara comes to Flint ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference, with a road record of 5-5-2-1. The IceDogs sit second in the Central Division. Flint enters the contest ranked fifth in the West Division, with a home record of 6-9-1-0. It will be the first of two games between Flint and Niagara this season and the only contest in Flint. Last season the teams split the season series with one win each. Over the past five seasons, Flint holds a record of 4-3-1-0 against the IceDogs. The Firebirds have not lost to Niagara on home ice during that time.

On special teams the Firebirds are operating at 14.9% on the power-play and 70.3% on the penalty-kill. Niagara's power-play is scoring at a 19.5% clip while the penalty-kill is at 84.4%, third-best in the league.

Players to Watch: Flint Firebirds (8-16-2-0, 5th West Division):

There is a four-way competitive race for the team lead in points. Maurizio Colella and Ty Dellandrea currently lead the Firebirds with 18 points (8G, 10A) each. Jake Durham and Nicholas Mattinen (Toronto Maple Leafs) are also tied with 15 points (3G, 12A) each. Mattinen leads all defensemen on the team in assists and points.

Rookie forward Kyle Harris notched his first-career two goal game Friday night and Jack Wismer picked up a two assist night. Connor Roberts scored his first goal in a Firebirds' uniform against his former team on Friday.

Between-the-pipes, Garrett Forrest has played in 22 of 26 games, including 21 starts this season. Forrest has a 4.63 goals against average (GAA) and a .866 save percentage (SAV%). Forrest has backstopped Flint to all eight wins in net this season. Rookie goaltender Luke Cavallin received a couple of starts last week against both the Saginaw Spirit and the Kingston Frontenacs and has appeared in eight games this season with a 5.54 goals against average (GAA) and a .842 save percentage (SAV%). Cavallin was the highest selected goaltender in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft.

NHL: The Firebirds have three players with NHL ties consisting of Fedor Gordeev (Toronto Maple Leafs), Nicholas Mattinen (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes). Additionally, Dennis Busby, Ty Dellandrea, Hunter Holmes, Ryan Littlejohn, Evan Morrison, Connor Roberts and Jack Wismer are seven first time eligible players to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft in June 2018. Busby, Dellandrea, Holmes, Roberts, and Wismer were listed among NHL Central Scouting's November 'Players to Watch' list for the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft.

Niagara IceDogs (12-8-3-2, 2nd Central Division): Kirill Maksimov leads the IceDogs in both goals and points and is on an eight-game point-streak. He has registered 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points in 23 games played this season. Maksimov has been red-hot on the power play this year as he is currently tied for second in the OHL with eight tallies on the man-advantage. Ben Jones (Vegas Golden Knights) and Akil Thomas are tied for second in points for Niagara. Jones has registered for 26 points (11G, 15A) in 25 games played and shares the second-place tie with eight goals on the power-play. Thomas also has 26 points in 25 games, registering six goals and a team-leading 20 assists. Danial Singer is currently on a four-game point-streak.

In net, Stephen Dhillon is tied for the fourth-most wins of any goaltender with twelve this season. He enters the contest as the seventh-best goaltender statistically with a 2.85 goals against average (GAA) and a .907 save percentage (SAV%). Back-up netminder Colton Incze has played in five games this season and carries a 3.69 goals against average (GAA) and a .881 save percentage (SAV%).

NHL: Niagara has two players with NHL ties consisting of Ben Jones (Vegas Golden Knights) and Kirill Maksimov (Edmonton Oilers). Additionally, Akil Thomas was named to the NHL Central Scouting's November 'Players to Watch' list for the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft.

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