Monday, April 18, 2016

Saginaw Spirit (OHL, 2015-16)

2015-16 Regular Season--Spirit vs. Soo Greyhounds
     The Saginaw Spirit just completed their 13th season in the Ontario Hockey League. The team is still owned by Dick Garber of Garber Buick and continues to play at Dow Event Center.
     The Spirit iced one of the youngest teams in the OHL this past year. When I bought this program, only right winger Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay) was drafted, though the team did have two overage players.
     Saginaw went into the season with higher expectations due to the experience the young roster gained last year. However, the team struggled from the start, costing coach Greg Gilbert his job. He was replaced midseason by scout Moe Mantha. Mantha coached the Michigan Warriors the past five seasons and was a former Spirit coach as well. Saginaw finished the season at a dismal 24-36-5-3 record. Their 56 points were good enough for fourth place in the West Division, 35 points behind first place Sarnia and 10 ahead of last place Flint. 3,354 fans per game watched the Spirit play this season.
     The Spirit had issues putting the puck in the net, as they scored just 209 goals, sixth-fewest in the league. Artem Artemov led the team in scoring, with 19 goals and 55 points. Kris Bennett and Connor Brown led in goals with 24 each, and just two others had at least 20.
     On defense, Saginaw struggled mightily, allowing the third most goals in the OHL (282). The team went through four different goaltenders that season, with Evan Cormier playing the most games. Cormier, a midseason acquisition last year, struggled in 58 games, with a 21-27-7 record, a 3.72 GAA and one shutout. Cameron Zanussi, picked up from Mississauga during the year, made it into just 8 games (1-3-1, 5.14 GAA). David Ovsjannikov and Brandon Bonello were the other netminders this season.
     The Spirit did qualify for the postseason as a #8 seed. That set them up with the Erie Otters, who went 52-15-1, tops in the league. Most experts didn't give Saginaw much of a shot in this series, and were proven correct. Erie swept aside the Spirit in four straight, though Game Four was a close one. The Spirit will go into the offseason looking for a new coach, as Mantha will likely return to scouting.
     As usual with the Spirit, a great-looking program. It is 74 pages, all on glossy paper and loaded with color pictures and ads. Each player has their own color bio, and there is an article about the revived "I-75 Rivalry" with Flint. Local advertisements include Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame, Garber Automotive and WNEM TV5.


Sources:
Ontario Hockey League Statistics: 2015-16 (from hockeydb.com)

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