Guelph, ON – A pair of 2002-born talents shone brightly for the Saginaw Spirit on Wednesday as Cole Perfetti (7, 8) found the back of the net twice and rookie netminder Tristan Lennox turned aside 36 of 37 in a 4-1 road win over the Guelph Storm in Game 4.
Shorthanded on the blue line, the Spirit leaned on overage rearguard Reagan O’Grady (3) for a big performance as he scored once and added an assist while Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (11) also lit the lamp, helping Saginaw take a 3-1 series lead before a crowd of 4,698 at the Sleeman Centre.
“The past couple games we’ve been struggling to get shots toward the net and that was one of our goals this game,” said Tippett. “We sent more pucks to the net and some of them found their way in.”
Guelph outshot Saginaw 37-26 but the Spirit controlled the play throughout periods of the game, limiting the Storm to the perimeter while taking away lanes and blocking plenty of shots.
“Collectively as a group we’re just trying to make sure we’re in good position defensively,” explained Spirit head coach Chris Lazary. “Our players love each other. At the end of the day our group is tight and the way they go out and sacrifice for each other I think is the best. It comes from them on the bench wanting to do it for each other. Everybody in the group right now is willing to do that.”
O’Grady scored 4:38 into the first period Tippett and Perfetti put Saginaw up 3-0 after 40 minutes. Guelph’s Dmitri Samorukov (5) beat a screened Lennox through traffic 4:45 into the third before Perfetti put things out of reach with his second of the night.
“We’re one win away but these guys are a scary team,” Lazary continued. “We just watched what they did last series coming back from 3-0, so I think our group realizes we still have a long way to go.”
The Storm head to Saginaw for Game 5 on Friday with their backs against the wall down 3-1. Veteran head coach George Burnett came away disappointed with Wednesday’s effort.
“There’s not much good to find in the game,” he said. “They were better in all facets of the game. Their power play was stronger, their kill was better, they got some big saves and we didn’t test their young goaltender near enough tonight. I didn’t like our effort and I didn’t have my team ready to play so I’ll take full responsibility for that.
“We’ve got a day to figure it out and we’ve put ourselves in a pretty difficult situation here but we’ve got a little history with that circumstance and we need to be a lot better on Friday.”
Guelph’s Nick Suzuki recorded an assist in the win, stretching his point streak to nine games as he leads the league with 25 points (11-14–25) over 15 contests. Saginaw’s Tippett trails close behind with 22 points (11-11–22) over 14 outings.
The Spirit look to close out the series at home on Friday, pursuing their first Wayne Gretzky Trophy in franchise history when the puck drops for Game 5 at 7:05pm.
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