FLINT — The Flint Firebirds packed the house at the Dort Federal Event Center on Saturday for Star Wars night. Unfortunately for the Flint fans, however, the Firebirds suffered a 5-3 loss to their division rivals, the Sarnia Sting.
Sarnia started the game off with a 3-0 edge. Pavel Zacha scored on the power play just seven minutes in before he tallied another marker late in the period.. With less than a minute remaining in the opening frame, Nikita Korostelev rippled the mesh for a 3-0 Sting lead.
Flint finally broke the shutout in the early moments of the second period with a Cullen Mercer goal, which was almost instantly answered by Sarnia’s Brandon Lindberg, making it 4-1 Sting. Sarnia then began to pile it on with a Matt Mistele goal at 14:30 of the second stanza.
Flint added a pair of goals in the third period, beginning with a power play tally from Ryan Moore. Will Bitten then fired home his 15th goal of the year at the 10:47 mark, but it wouldn’t be enough to erase Sarnia’s lead.
On Friday night at home, the Firebirds got off to a hot start before relinquishing the lead en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to I-75 rival Saginaw.
Nicholas Caamano would be the one to send the teddy bears flying on teddy bear toss night, burying one from the bottom of the circle for the 1-0 lead. Late in the period, Cullen Mercer received a tick-tack pass from Connor Chatham to put Flint up 2-0 after one frame.
Then the momentum shifted, beginning with a Mitchell Stephens goal for the Spirit, the only of the second frame. Saginaw, though, tied the game just :20 into the third with a tally from Artem Artemov. Saginaw would then take the lead less than a minute later with a Connor Brown goal, but Flint drew even with a Chatham goal at 8:48.
The three-on-three overtime produced some exciting moments, but neither team could find the back of the net, bringing forth a shootout. Only one puck would find the back of the net in the shootout, which came off the stick of Saginaw’s Dylan Sadowy in the second round.
The Firebirds pulled off a shocker last Thursday, knocking off the division leading Windsor Spitfires on the road, 4-3, in overtime. In fact, they had to dig themselves out of an early hole in order to make the game competitive in the first place.
Just six minutes into the game, Windsor’s Hayden McCool scored, and seven minutes after that, the Spits got another tally, this one coming from Mikhail Sergachev. With only seven seconds remaining in the opening frame, though, Moore recorded his 10th goal of the season to cut the deficit to one.
Flint jumped right back into action just :25 into the second stanza with a Vili Saarijarvi goal, the fifth of the season for the Detroit Red Wings draft pick.
Around the 8:34 mark, however, is when the Firebirds took their first lead of the game as Mercer buried one with help from Zach Grzelewski and Josh Wesley.
Windsor would strike back, scoring on the power play at 18:55 of the second to draw even. After a scoreless third period, the game went to overtime and finished in a miraculous manner. In fact, it only took :35.
Mathieu Henderson found himself all alone on a breakaway and put it past goaltender Michael DiPietro to give the Firebirds the win. In net for Flint was Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 29 saves in the victory.
Just two days after the loss to Sarnia, though, Flint made league-wide news with a huge trade involving the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Firebirds sent goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and defenseman Josh Wesley, both Carolina Hurricanes draft picks, to Niagara.
In exchange, Flint received Brent Moran, a goaltender who has already been drafted by the Dallas Stars, as well as a 2017 second round pick, a 2018 second round pick, a 2018 third round pick, a 2019 third round pick and a 2021 second round pick.
The Firebirds welcome the Mississauga Steelheads on Friday at 7:30 p.m. for Ugly Sweater night before hitting the road for four games in a row. Flint is now 13-12-1-2, totaling 29 points, good enough for third place in the West Division.