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The I-75 Divide Cup Returns to Flint, Firebirds Down Spirit 6-3

January 21, 2022 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL) - Flint Firebirds News Release


Flint, Mich. - The Firebirds officially brought the I-75 Divide Cup, presented by Coors Light, back to Flint with a decisive 6-3 victory over their up-north rivals Friday night. The game once again featured Luke Cavallin on one end of the ice, and Tristan Lennox (New York Islanders) on the other, just like the 1-0 goaltender battle that ended in Flint's favor a week ago at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw. Cavallin earned the victory again, making 28 saves on 31 shots for his 15th victory of the season. Flint's newly-appointed Captain Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers) was named the game's 'First Star,' recording one goal and four assists. Sahil Panwar earned 'Second Star' honors, scoring the game-winner and logging two assists. Riley Piercey lit the lamp twice and pitched in a helper en-route to 'Third Star' accolades. Pavel Mintyukov (1 G, 1 A) and Josh Bloom (2 A) topped the stats for the Spirit, and Lennox finished with 23 saves in the tilt.

The vast majority of the first period was some of the most intense scoreless hockey of the season. Plenty of tight-checking bodies coming together after whistles, and crafty scoring opportunities abounded. Flint had two power-play chances, including a full five-minute opportunity after a Spirit player was awarded a match penalty at 12:48. The Birds had plenty of quality looks on net while up a man, but Lennox kept them out of the net and his defenders were quick to clear rebounds. In the end, it was Saginaw lighting the lamp with only 33 seconds left in the opening frame. While evened up at five-on-five, Pavel Mintyukov walked the line from the right point before launching the puck into traffic in front of Cavallin. While the netminder moved to his right, the puck glanced off a skate and slid just inside the right post. It was Mintyukov's seventh of the season, assisted by Ian Phillips and Josh Bloom (Buffalo Sabres).

Saginaw led 1-0 going into the first intermission. First-period shots ended even at 10 per side. Faceoffs were also tied with each team winning seven draws.

The offense showed up much quicker in the middle frame. Brennan Othmann gathered a loose puck behind the Spirit cage and found Riley Piercey open in the left circle. Piercey's first shot was blocked by a defender, but before Lennox could reposition, Piercey was able to take a second swing which found paydirt just 14 seconds into the second period. Othmann was credited with the lone assist on Piercey's 13th of the season.

Just before the midway point of the second period, Saginaw went on their second power play of the frame. Bloom carried into the offensive zone on the right-wing side and hit the brakes. He waited for the late man, Mintyukov. The defender rifled a heavy shot into traffic and teammate Dean Loukus was perched in front of Cavallin for the redirection that gave Saginaw their second lead of the night at 9:06.

Flint's first quality chance to even the scoreboard was a penalty shot taken by Amadeus Lombardi at 14:19. The young centerman used a shoulder shake between the circles to earn an early commitment from the goaltender, but he lost his handle and the game remained 2-1 in favor of the visitors.

Less than two minutes later, Zack Terry found Tag Bertuzzi open on the left-wing half boards. Bertuzzi wristed a shot on net was deflected by Sahil Panwar. Lennox got a piece of it at the top of his goal crease, but the rebound trickled behind him and Gavin Hayes pounced on it for the t. It was Hayes' ninth of the season, recorded at 16:08.

Second-period shots favored Flint 9-8. The Birds also outdrew the Spirit 15-12. Saginaw ended 1-for-2 with the man advantage, and Flint remained scoreless with one power-play opportunity and one penalty shot in the middle stanza.

With a carry-over 4-on-3 power play, the Firebirds claimed their first lead of the night 48 seconds into the third. Sahil Panwar made a tape-to-tape cross-ice pass to Othmann in the right-wing circle. He launched a shot that Lennox kicked aside. Piercey was on the doorstep waiting, and he potted his second of the night and 14th of the season.

Saginaw only needed a minute and change to even the score at three. Flint's defense cleared a loose puck from the slot that was gathered by Roberto Mancini at the top of the right circle. He wasted no time snapping a quick shot back at Cavallin that found its way through traffic for his seventh of the campaign, unassisted at 1:54.

With a man-advantage late in the third, Othmann sent a pass to Piercey below the goal line in the right corner. Piercey collected the puck immediately to Lennox's left, but rather than shooting he hit Sahil Panwar at the inner edge of the left-wing circle and he completed the back-door play to reclaim the lead for the home team. Panwar's sixth of the season was recorded at 13:20.

Saginaw took a late penalty with only 2:16 remaining in regulation, and Flint used its lone timeout to draft a defensive strategy. Instead, they ended up creating more offense. Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) fed Othmann in the right circle. Othmann fed it back to Keppen in the slot, who unselfishly returned the puck to his captain for a wide-angle one-timer. It was Othmann's club-leading 27th, scored at 18:12 on the power play.

Saginaw then called Lennox to the bench for the extra attacker. Othmann returned the favor to Keppen, setting up an empty-netter at 18:37 to seal the victory and officially return the coveted I-75 Divide Cup trophy, presented by Coors Light, to the Dort Financial Center. Luca D'Amato picked up the second helper on the game's final marker.

Next Up: The Firebirds are scheduled to host the Kitchener Rangers on home ice Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Dort Financial Center. Season ticket holders can use their ticket from the originally scheduled January 12th game for this Saturday's contest. Individual tickets purchased for the originally scheduled January 12th game are also to be used for this Saturday's contest. Tickets from the January 22nd game vs. the Soo Greyhounds (now postponed) can be redeemed for tickets to this Saturday's game vs. Kitchener. The game is also a part of Firebirds Fight Hunger Month. Fans can bring in a minimum of 5 non-perishable food items to receive a free ticket to the game. All can drive tickets already redeemed for the January 12th game will remain valid for this Saturday.


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