SAGINAW, MI – Bode Wilde and Ryan McLeod combined to score a pair of the biggest goals in the 17-year history of the Saginaw Spirit on Saturday, powering a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Guelph Storm to stake out a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Championship Series.
A truly bizarre final 10 minutes of regulation saw the Storm score twice on a five-minute power play to climb ahead 3-2 before Spirit rookie Tristan Lennox was thrust into action following the ejection of starting goaltender Ivan Prosvetov with just under six minutes to go.
Lennox’s first career playoff win came before a capacity crowd of 5,605 at the Dow Event Center as New York Islanders prospect Bode Wilde (7) blasted home the tying goal on a late power play before Edmonton Oilers second rounder Ryan McLeod (5) went to work, outmaneuvering three Storm opponents to net the winner 6:52 into the extra frame.
“I think I kind of just saw a lane up the middle so I took it,” said McLeod of the goal that put an end to a wild night in Saginaw. “The guy stepped up on me and I just kind of chipped it through his legs and luckily it got by him and I got a breakaway and put it under his blocker. Obviously it’s huge it was an unbelievable crowd tonight so it’s really exciting.”
Damien Giroux (7) and Cole Perfetti (6) netted second period goals after a scoreless first while Guelph’s Nick Suzuki scored his OHL Playoffs-leading 11th marker. Isaac Ratcliffe (7) and Markus Phillips (2) scored 34 seconds apart with six minutes remaining in the third before the Spirit mounted their comeback.
“I think what I’m most satisfied with is that we were so close there to losing our composure,” said Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary. “People might argue with some of the stuff that happened that we did but just the guys on the bench and the way some of the guys stood up and just said ‘hey, let’s get through the kill, we’ll get an opportunity here with the goalie out and we’re going to tie this thing.’
“We’ve been saying it all year, our leadership group is phenomenal and in the toughest time to this point in the season they came through with shining colours.”
Guelph outshot Saginaw 36-34 in a back-and-forth contest that went right down to the wire. The Storm will head home for Game 3 on Monday looking to summon some of the second round resolve that helped them come back from down 3-0 to eliminate the London Knights.
“Well we were probably fortunate to get through the first 20 minutes alive but I liked the way we played the last 40,” said Storm head coach George Burnett. “I thought we pushed a lot harder, we were a lot more assertive, had the puck a lot more, found a way to score on the power play and unfortunately we made some bad choices late in the hockey game that gave them a little life.
“We did some good things, but it’s a disappointing way to lose. Unfortunately a veteran team should be able to take care of the puck a little bit better than we did tonight.”
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