Spirit wakes up late, downs Troops 5-2

SAGINAW, Mich. – Mitchell Stephens’s goal at 12:46 of the third period proved the winner as the Saginaw Spirit defeated the North Bay Battalion 5-2 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night.

Mike Davies, Will Petschenig, Dylan Sadowy and Connor Brown, the last two into an empty net, also scored for Saginaw, which got 30 saves from goaltender Evan Cormier before 2,843 at the Dow Event Center.

The Spirit, which had lost eight straight before winning its previous two games, has a won-lost-extended record of 11-15-2 for 24 points, fifth in the West Division.

Steve Harland and Mike Amadio scored for the Battalion, while goaltender Jake Smith gave up three goals on 26 shots. North Bay is 12-12-2 for 26 points, fourth in the Central Division.

The Troops nursed a 1-0 lead from Harland’s early first-period goal until Davies scored at 2:17 of the third period, driving to the left side of the goalmouth to convert a pass from Matthew Kreis on the right wing. The goal provoked a barrage of stuffed toys in the Spirit’s Christmas donation promotion.

Defenceman Petschenig scored on a blue line blast with the man advantage at 8:50 before Stephens, who also had two assists, went to the net to put home Blake Clarke’s rebound.

With Smith gone for a sixth attacker, Amadio pulled the Battalion within 3-2 at 17:47, scoring from the slot on assists by Cam Dineen and Kyle Wood. It was Amadio’s team-leading 16th goal of the season.

Smith was back on the bench when Sadowy, with his team-high 12th goal, and Brown, with his 11th, found the vacant cage at 19:04 and 19:28 respectively.

Harland struck for his third goal 1:35 into the game, redirecting a right-point blast by Riley Bruce past Cormier.

Greg DiTomaso was assessed a head-checking penalty for a collision with Max Kislinger at 8:18, with Bruce going after DiTomaso, which precipitated roughing calls against both.

The Battalion was much more dangerous on its second power play, after a Saginaw bench minor for too many men on the ice at 17:06. Mike Baird set up the driving Zach Poirier, who backhanded the puck high, and Mathew Santos fired wide off a setup by Amadio before Daniil Vertiy hit the left post.

Smith made rapid-fire saves against Kris Bennett and Jesse Barwell in the third minute of the second period, and Wood hit the left post on the power play after DiTomaso was whistled for slashing at 2:45. Kyle Potts failed to capitalize when in alone on Cormier at 10:35, and Brady Lyle missed converting a rebound into a gaping net with the goaltender helpless in the 13th minute.

The Battalion, which lost 5-2 Friday night to the Sarnia Sting, completes a three-game road trip against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 2:07 p.m. Sunday. The game can be heard live in North Bay on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion headed to Sault Ste. Marie immediately after the game … North Bay is 4-7-2 on the road. Saginaw is 7-6-1 at home … The Troops went 0-for-5 on the power play. Saginaw was 1-for-4 … The Battalion traded Cormier and four OHL Priority Selection picks to Saginaw last Jan. 4 for right winger Nick Moutrey, who was the Spirit’s captain … Clarke is another former member of the Troops, having been traded for the recently retired Zach Bratina on Dec. 27, 2013 … Opening line combinations included Amadio centring left winger Vertiy and right winger Santos, Brett McKenzie pivoting left winger Baird and right winger Harland and Poirier centring Jacob Ball on left wing and right winger Brett Hargrave. Potts centred left winger Kislinger and right winger Justin Brazeau … The Battalion scratched Jake Ramalho and David Sherman … Stephens had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 victory via shootout Friday night over the host Flint Firebirds. Because of a broken foot, it was Stephens’s first game since Oct. 16 … The Spirit and first-season Firebirds are playing their eight-game season series for the I-75 Divide Cup, named for the Interstate 75 highway between the cities, which are 59 kilometres apart and have decades of hockey rivalry … Saginaw visits North Bay on Feb. 11.

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