The Saginaw Spirit (8-13-2-1) came one step closer to getting out of last place behind backup goal tender Brendan Bonello, who earned his first career Ontario Hockey League victory with a 4-2 win over the Guelph Storm (9-14-2-1) in front of 2,243 fans at the Dow Event Center this afternoon.
The 17 year old Mississauga, ON native drew positive comparisons to another well known Mississauga goal tender -former Spirit net minder Jake Paterson- when he was drafted by Saginaw in the third round (45 overall) of the 2015 OHL priority selection draft.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Bonello spent the majority of the 2015-16 season playing for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the OJHL before securing his role as Evan Cormier's primary backup coming out of training camp this year.
Bonello likes the way this Spirit team has turned things around and believes they can be a division contender, while noting he is happy to finally get the milestone first win, but praising his teammates for their support along the way.
“It felt really good,” Bonello said. “I couldn't have done it without the guys, they were with me the whole way and made it much easier for me. We had a slow start to the year, for sure, but we never doubted ourselves. We always knew that we could be a good team, and we still believe we are going to be a team to be feared in the west and we are focused on a big comeback now.”
Trailing 2-1 midway through the second period, Spirit rookie Damien Giroux (5) scored his fifth goal of the season from Mitchell Stephens and Keaton Middleton at 13:40 of the second period to tie the game at 2 goals apiece.
Spirit defenseman C.J. Garcia (4) scored the eventual game winner with a rocket from just inside the left point from Kirill Maksimov and Brock Hill at 6:31 of the third period. Hayden Hodgson (8) added an unassisted empty net goal with 55 seconds remaining in regulation at the 19:05 mark of the third.
Stephens (10) scored his tenth of the season from Hodgson and Giroux midway through the opening period for Saginaw's first goal of the afternoon.
Spirit head coach Spencer Carbery also expressed his happiness for Bonello as well as the support his team gave the young goal tender who turned away 27 of the 29 shots he faced today.
“It's been a tough start to the year for him and I was happy for him tonight,” Carbery said. “You just saw, he was pretty excited and happy to get that behind him and hopefully now he can build off of that. That was a good start for him, to give him some confidence. We played well in front of him, we needed one of those games to get him going.”
Carbery likes the way his team has been playing recently after a crazy start to the season, filled with a lot of bad breaks.
“We're now pretty consistent with the way we play and our structure and I've been pretty impressed with the way we've played,” Carbery said. “We play hard and we're on the puck and we spend a lot of time in the offensive zone. We're not the most polished team, but we play hard and we do the right things and we create a lot of scoring chances and opportunities around the net. We don't always score all of them, but it's good, the guys are playing consistently well.”
The Spirit travel to Sarnia Friday for a 7:05 pm face off at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena before returning to host the Niagara Ice Dogs Sat for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center.