High Hopes for Saginaw Spirit with New Season, New Opportunities on the Horizon

    icon Sep 21, 2023
    icon 0 Comments

The Saginaw Spirit hockey team will embark on its 2023-24 season on Friday, September 29th on the road in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Saginaw made huge strides during the 2022-23 season with a 36-27-2 record and advanced to the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.  The team has an appetite for more in 2023-24.

“Our ultimate goal is to win an OHL Championship for our community,” said Craig Goslin, President and Managing Partner of the Spirit. “Dave (General Manager Dave Drinkill), Chris (Head Coach Chris Lazary) and their entire staff has built a championship-contending roster with back-to-back West Division Championships and a culture of development for our players that, we feel, is second to none.”

“The total player development program mirrors the Saginaw Spirit core values of strong work ethic, loyalty, pride, integrity, empathy, respect and honesty, as well as matches our mission statement of developing young talented athletes into successful people, on and off the ice.”

Goslin and owner Richard J. Garber have built a solid organization with a veteran – and respected – leadership team. Drinkill and Lazary enter their ninth and sixth season, respectively, with the organization. Drinkill has skillfully made trades and draft picks over the past two seasons to position the Spirit for a long playoff run.

Lazary, meanwhile, enters his second full season as head coach and fifth year behind the Spirit bench after being named associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season. His .704 regular-season winning percentage is the highest of any head coach in Spirit franchise history. He is 20 wins away from setting a franchise record for victories. The current record is 154 wins.

“We’re not even thinking about the Memorial Cup,” viewed Lazary. “Our focus is the remainder of training camp and then the first 10 games of the season. And, of course, our first match-up with Flint.”

Saginaw’s solid staff also includes Assistant General Manager Brian Prout, Assistant Coaches Jake Grimes and Garrett Rutledge, Goalie/Video Coach Rick Ice, Strength and Conditioning Coach Austin Sadler, Athletic Trainer Andrew Plate, and Head Equipment Manager Lester Tiu.

The Spirit icers are highlighted by 16-year-old forward Michael Misa, whose 56 points (22 goals, 34 assists) were the most by an OHL rookie a year ago. Misa averaged 1.24 points-per-game - the highest of any Ontario Hockey League exceptional status player and ahead of John Tavares’ 1.18 points-per-game average he averaged with the Oshawa Generals in 2005-06. Misa’s solid play earned him OHL Rookie of the Year honors and he also made the Canadian Hockey League All-Rookie team. He has bulked up and is now a solid 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds.

But the talent doesn’t stop there. Andrew Oke, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound netminder who graduated from Utica High School, enters his fourth season with the team. He didn’t play in 2020-21 because of the pandemic. Oke competed in the 2023 World Juniors Tournament with Team USA and earned a bronze medal along the way. He has competed in a pair of World Junior Tournaments and was a 2020 Silver Stick champion.

“My goal is to make the OHL playoffs and win the Memorial Cup for my team,” said Oke. “Playing in Halifax (Nova Scotia) in the World Juniors Tournament was a blast. It was an amazing time. There was a ton of talent there. I was lucky to go. Another goalie had a concussion and that opened the door for me but I still had to beat out others to make the team.”

Drinkill bolstered the defense by recently trading for Braden Haché and a 2027 conditional 15th round pick from the Barrie Colts in exchange for defenseman Olivier Savard and a conditional 2024 third round pick.

“As an organization, we’re thrilled,” said Drinkill. “Braden is one of the league’s top two-way defensemen. He’s got playoff experience, is an NHL draft pick, has been to NHL camps, and is a true leader at the rink and in the community.”

Braden is a player that we’ve wanted to acquire for a while now,” continued Drinkill. “To be able to make this deal today really gives our team a boost heading into camp. We look forward to working with him and growing his game during this special season.”

Listed at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, Haché was selected 210th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The left-shot defenseman tallied 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 68 games split between Barrie and the Kingston Frontenacs this past season. He averaged 23:10 in ice time during his third OHL season.

“I’m super excited to be joining Saginaw,” said Hache, whose father Conrad is director of Ontario Hockey League officiating and a former National Hockey League referee. “Saginaw showed last year that they have a talented team and I can’t wait to add to it.”

Forward Joseph “Joey” Willis and defenseman Zayne Parekh will play important roles with the team. Willis, drafted 111th overall by the Nashville Predators, made the OHL All-Rookie team. Parekh, meanwhile, set an OHL record for goals scored by U-16 defenseman with 21. He netted both OHL and CHL All-Rookie honors last season.

Dotting the Spirit’s 2022-23 roster are a solid corps of overagers: frontliners Davis “T-Bone” Codd and Dean Loukus, and defensemen Roberto Mancini and Hache.

The Saginaw Spirit will open the 2023-24 campaign on the road against the Kitchener Rangers on Friday, September 29th. Their first home contest is Saturday, September 30th when they host the Sarnia Sting in a 7:05 p.m. game at the Dow Event Center.

The Home Opener Celebration, presented by Covenant HealthCare, kicks off at 4:30 p.m. at the Jolt Credit Union Event Park. The Celebration includes live music, food trucks, inflatables, obstacle course, balloon artist, high ropes course and more.

Additional information on the Saginaw Spirit can be found at www.saginawspirit.com or follow the team on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

Several Spirit Players Attend NHL Rookie Camps

The Saginaw Spirit will have a bevy of players attending National Hockey League rookie camps.

Forwards Hunter Haight, Matyas Sapovaliv, Joey Willis, Davis “T-Bone” Codd, Nic Sima, Dean Loukus and Luke McNamara, and defensemen Braden Haché and Roberto Mancini, and goaltender Andrew Oke all received nods.

Heading west are Haché, Oke, Codd, and Sapovaliv will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Rookie Faceoff Tournament. Sapovaliv joins the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights, who selected him 48th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. Codd will don an Anaheim Ducks sweater, while Haché and Oke will suit up with the Arizona Coyotes.

Haight returns to the Minnesota Wild to participate in the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Wild selected Haight just before his now-teammate Sapovaliv with the 47th overall pick in 2022. The Strathroy, Ontario native piled up 51 points (18G, 33A) in 42 games with Saginaw last season.

After being selected 111th overall by the hosts of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Willis will join the Nashville Predators at the Southeast Rookie Showcase. Willis heads to Estero, Florida, after a rookie OHL campaign that saw him named to the league’s first All-Rookie Team.

The Detroit Red Wings will participate in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City. With them will be a pair of Spirit forwards: Sima and Calumet, along with Loukus. The duo skated with the Wings earlier this summer at the team’s development camp. Loukus’s fellow overager, Mancini, will once again join the Ottawa Senators, this time at the NHL Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York.

Rounding out the extensive list is McNamara, a third-year forward, who joins the New York Rangers in Allentown, Pennsylvania. McNamara makes his second appearance with the Rangers, his first coming at development camp in July.






Share on:

Comments (0)

icon Login to comment