Ten points separate the teams in the standings, and both teams are looking to rebound from a loss in each of their last games.
• Saginaw Spirit: 21-20-3-2, 47 points (46 games played) — 167 GF, 176 GA, 7-3-0-0 in last ten games
• Erie Otters: 15-24-3-4, 37 points (46 games played) — 146 GF, 185 GA, 4-4-1-1 in last ten games
A LOOK AT: SAGINAW
The Spirit are fourth in the West Division, two points ahead of the last-place Windsor Spitfires and four points shy of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Saginaw is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Erie Otters on January 23, a game that put an end to the team’s six-game winning streak. Prior to that, the Spirit had not suffered a loss since an 8-2 defeat at the hands of the London Knights on January 4.
Leading the way for Saginaw is center Eric Locke, who has 30 goals and 28 assists for 58 points in 46 games this season. Locke is in the top ten in the OHL in goals and points on this season. Left winger Garret Ross has 53 points (26-27) in 40 games, and Buffalo Sabres prospect Justin Kea has 37 points in 46 games.
Goaltending duties have largely rested on the shoulders of Mississauga native Jake Paterson, who is 15-13-2-1 on the season. Paterson has a 3.45 GAA and .901 save percentage, stopping 987 of 1,095 shots faced. Rookie Nikita Serebryakov has played 16 games in net this season, with Darien Ekblad suiting up for one game as well.
Tonight’s game is the first of a three-game roadstand to finish the month for Saginaw, after the team played seven of the last eight games at home. They’ll visit Mississauga on Friday before traveling to Niagara on Saturday.
A LOOK AT: ERIE
Erie currently holds the fifth and final spot in the Midwest Division, sitting 20 points behind the Guelph Storm. The team is coming off a 7-1 loss to Plymouth and has won just three of eight games played since January 1.
Captain Connor Brown leads the Otters with 58 points (24-34) in 46 games.. In addition to leading the team in points, he also leads in goals and assists. Fourteen of Brown’s 24 goals this season have come on the power play – most in the league.
Rookie Connor McDavid has 49 points (20-29) in 41 games, and J.P. Labardo has 45 points in as many games. Labardo was named OHL player of the week for the week ending January 20, a timeframe in which he had seven points in two games.
Otters goaltender Oscar Dansk is being evaluated for a possible concussion and is expected to miss – at minimum – the next few games. In 30 games this season, Dansk had 984 saves, a 3.72 GAA and .901 save percentage. Rookies Devin Williams and Daniel Dekoning will have to step up in Dansk’s absence. Williams is 7-9-1-1 this season, while Dekoning has appeared in 25 minutes of ice time.
After tonight’s game, the Otters face a home-and-home with Kitchener this weekend to finish out the month of January.
THE MATCH UP
Tonight’s game between the Otters and Spirit is the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season.
Erie took the first game in a 7-1 decision on October 24. Labardo had two goals, Connor Crisp added a goal and an assist and defenseman Adam Pelech had three assists to lead Erie to the win. Jimmy McDowell, Hayden Hodgson, Connor Brown and Luke Cairns also scored for the Otters, while Dansk stopped 34 of 35 shots faced. Jimmy Lodge scored the lone goal for Saginaw.
Saginaw would take the next meeting 4-3, a game that would see the teams combine for 78 shots. Labardo, Cairns and Dane Fox scored for Erie, while Garret Ross and Jeremiah Addison scored for Saginaw, with Eric Locke adding a pair for the win.
The teams met again on January 19, when Erie defeated Saginaw by a score of 4-2. Locke and Kea scored for Saginaw, while McDowell, Stephen Harper, Fox and McDavid scored for Erie. Williams stopped 28 shots faced for the Otters, while Paterson stopped 25 shots.
Tonight’s game between the Saginaw Spirit and the Erie Otters begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online here. Tonight is also a Big Assist Wednesday – bring crayons or coloring books and purchase a ticket for just $2!