That’s what they did with a 9-3 victory over the East Coast Minutemen to earn the second seed in the Eastern Division of the North American 3 Eastern Hockey League. The Spirit will now host all three games with the Stars this upcoming weekend, with Friday and Saturday night being at 7 p.m., and if necessary, 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“I think we needed to start playoff hockey hockey,” Fighting Spirit coach Rod Simmons said. “There’s no time to over think the game. We needed to start playing it with intensity and the boys stepped up and played well. We did the things we needed to do and we made a couple of adjustments on systems that shut them down.”

East Coast, which finished the year 11-33-0, only had 11 skaters and two goalies dress for the game.

“It’s a nightmare. I talked to the coach before the game. He was pretty upset with his players,” Simmons said. “A couple of guys pulled a shoot on him about three hours before the trip with injuries. So, it’s very difficult to prepare for the playoffs when you have that situation. The bottom line is we have a job to do and we got the job done.”

It was a a bit of a a slow start for the Fighting Spirit, but they took advantage of their first power play of the evening. Brett Bittner found Dylan Vrees 26 seconds into Kyler Harding’s interference infraction.

Nearly four minutes later, Vrees found the back of the net again with Bittner and Thomas Peutz setting the tally up.


“It was really important,” Brett Bittner said of getting out to the 2-0 lead. ” As a team, I feel we do better when we get up early as opposed when we get scored on first. Getting the goal early help jump the boys and helped keep us going.”

East Coast cut the deficit within one as Harding’s blast from the top of the right circle beat Zachary Barry 14:08 into the opening period. It was the Minutemen’s third and final shot of the first period.

L/A extended its lead late in the first period when Puetz found the back of the net for the seventh time this season, just under the three-minute mark. With 50 seconds remaining in the period, Bittner’s shot from the slot was stopped by East Coast goalie Aidan Critchlow, but he collected his own rebound and scored his 23rd goal of the year. Austin Siering was credited with an assist.

In the second period, the Fighting Spirit weren’t discipline, as Walker Hamilton received a five minute major and a game misconduct for kicking after he was tripped up by Cole Norsetter, who received two minutes on the play.

Goaltender Zachary Barry was called for slashing to negate a power play when Mason Smith of East Cost was originally called for cross checking.

Vrees isn’t concerned the penalties will carry over into the playoffs.


“I thought we did alright of keeping our heads,” Vrees said. “So, I am not too worried about it. Our guys did a good job staying out of the box. We will be alright.”

Still, the Fighting Spirit scored three times, with Puetz scoring his second of the contest 6:52 into the period thanks to Linder Kenyon and Dylan Vrees setting the marker up.

After a Harding power play goal for East Coast at the 9:26 mark, Austin Davis put in the Fighting Spit’s sixth goal at the 15:31 mark of the middle frame. Vrees completed the hat trick with 42 seconds left after Kenyon fed him the puck.

Mason Smith added the Minutemen’s third goal on a breakaway attempt early in the third period.

Bittner added his second goal on the power play with 6:47 remaining in the contest. Jordan Crowe and Kenyon assisted on the goal. Thomas Kuentz also scored on the man advantage with 35 seconds remaining in the game.

They were 4-for-4 on the man advantage while East Coast was 1-for-5.

Barry only needed to make 11 saves for the win, while Critchlow and Thomas Huggins combined to stop 35 shots in the loss.

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