In the Spirit of it all

March 19, 2018

Good news for the Saginaw Spirit is that it is back in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs after missing them last season. But a formidable foe awaits the Spirit in the ferocious form of the Soo Greyhounds.

Somewhere, out there, Phil Collins is singing the tune “Against All Odds.”

And while the boys in Saginaw may not be singing along, they can probably relate to the task that looms.

Then again, better to be in the playoffs than already packing up for the off-season.

The disparity in numbers tells a story of how much better the Greyhounds were than the Spirit over the course of the 2017-2018 regular season.

Finishing first overall in the OHL, the Greyhounds totaled 116 points from a record of 55-7-6 and head into the playoffs as the no. 1 seed.

Saginaw, meanwhile, was able to take hold of the eighth-and-final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 67 points from a record of 29-30-9.

As a team, the Soo scored 317 goals and allowed 186 while Saginaw tallied 196 and gave up 238.

Do the math. (I would do it for you but I twice failed the same Grade 12 math class during my high school days at erstwhile Sir James Dunn. Ha!)

Then there are player statistics to compare.

Overage forward Mason Kohn led Saginaw in scoring with 20 goals, 34 assists, 54 points. Not bad numbers but while his 54 points led the Spirit, no less than eight Greyhounds had higher totals than Kohn.

Saginaw has three 20-goal scorers — Cole Coskey with 27, Kohn with his 20 and Blade Jenkins, also with 20.

The Soo, on the other hand, has two players with 40 or more goals (Morgan Frost and Boris Katchouk) and four skaters with 30 or more goals (Taylor Raddysh, Tim Gettinger, Jack Kopacka and Hayden Verbeek.)

There is more statistical variance that heavily favours the Greyhounds. But methinks the vast majority already sees this for what it is — a mismatch in the making.

It could be stated that Saginaw’s no. 1 goalie, Evan Cormier, is every bit as capable as the Soo’s main man between the pipes, Matthew Villalta. But for how long and to what extent can Cormier hold off the high-scoring Hounds over the course of a best-of-seven playoff series?

For the sake of having something with a little spice to write about, it would be cool if Saginaw could win at least once in the series — or at least keep the scores close and maybe even extend a game or two into overtime where one shot decides the match.

But even that may be asking and expecting a lot from a very young Saginaw team that is being groomed for next season and beyond — just not this one.

From a local standpoint, the series will bring Saginaw rookie left winger Nicholas Porco home for at least a couple of games against his hometown team.

Porco, who was Saginaw’s first round pick, fourth overall, at the 2017 OHL draft, looms as a future star in the league.

Like Porco, it is mostly about the future for the Spirit.

Much however, can be gained from this series for what surely will be a baptism of fire for the up-and-coming Saginaw crew.

At any rate, as someone who likes beer, comparing the Soo and Saginaw is like having a Bud or a Bud Light — one is stronger than the other.

Having said that, I do like Bud Light and I love some of those who drink it.

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