Monday, April 6, 2015

Saginaw Spirit (OHL, 2014-15)

2014-15 OHL Playoffs: Spirit vs. Soo Greyhounds
     2014-15 was the twelfth season of the Saginaw Spirit, making that franchise the longest-lasting in the history of Saginaw hockey. Since their arrival in the summer of 2002, the Spirit have been a huge success off the ice, drawing 1.77 million fans to the Dow Event Center in twelve years. On the ice, the team has had mixed results. While competitive for the most part, the Spirit have won just one division title, and have yet to advance past the second round. On the other hand, the Spirit have sent numerous players to the NHL, including current Chicago Blackhawk Brandon Saad.
     The Spirit are owned by local car dealer Richard Garber, who has owned the team in it's entire existence. The head coach is Greg Gilbert, a former NHL forward who is the only player to win the Stanley Cup with both New York teams. Gilbert arrived in 2013 during the season, and led a struggling Spirit squad to the playoffs. He won the OHL Coach of the Year award that year, and is a finalist this season.
     2014-15 was a rough season for the Spirit. Saginaw battled with the Plymouth Whalers all season for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. At the trading deadline, Saginaw GM Jim Paliatito traded away all the team's overagers (including Red Wings prospect Jake Patterson), leaving the Spirit with the youngest roster in the OHL. Only star forward Dylan Sadowy was an NHL draft choice. It was another attempt at building for the future for the franchise.
     Saginaw scored the seventh-fewest goals in 2014-15, with only 212. Sadowy was the team's leading scorer with 42 goals and 74 points. Mitchell Stephens had the second most points, with 48, on the strength of 22 goals. Tye Felhaber was the only other Spirit player to score 20 goals.
     The Spirit also struggled on defense, allowing 271 goals, third-worst in the league. They used four different goaltenders this past year. Jake Patterson was the #1 netminder for most of the year, going 12-11-1 with a 3.48 GAA and 1 shutout, before being traded to Kitchener at midseason. Evan Cormier took over the reigns for the remainder of the season, going 9-10-0 with a 3.48 GAA and 1 shutout, showing a lot of promise on such a young team. Other netminders include David Ovsjannikov and Nikita Serebryakov. Cormier drew the nod for the postseason.
     Despite the trades, the Spirit were able to clinch the final playoff berth in the last week of the season. Unfortunately, as the #8 seed, they drew the powerful Sault Ste. Marie Greyounds in Round One. The Greyhounds won the regular season title, going 54-12-2, a whopping 49 points ahead of Saginaw. With a roster full of NHL draft choices, everyone expected the Greyhounds to crush the Spirit in four games. Those predictions were accurate, as Sault Ste. Marie swept the Spirit aside with ease.
     This program is from Game 3 of that series, the only Spirit game I made it to this year, and the first one in two years. It's a great program as always, with 75 full-color pages full of ads, articles and bios on each player. There are letters from Dick Garber and Jim Paliatito. Local ads include Meijer, Garber Buick and Nissan, the Great Lakes Loons and Saginaw Valley State University. There's an article on former Spirit forward Brandon Saad. Very nice program, and only cost $3. It was only sold at the souvenir stand that night, but stat booklets were given away for free.

Sources:
Ontario Hockey League Statistics: 2014-15 (from ontariohockeyleague.com)

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