OHL Playoff Preview: (1) Windsor Spitfires v. (8) Sarnia Sting

It took the full 68 games of the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season but the Windsor Spitfires finally know their first-round opponent for the playoffs. After earning the top seed in the Western Conference, the club learned on Sunday that they’ll take on the eighth-seeded Sarnia Sting in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals.

The Sting were in a battle with the Erie Otters for the final spot, sitting just one point up coming into the final day. While both were in action, the Otters lost to the league-leading Hamilton Bulldogs, sending the Sting into the playoffs. Now, the Spitfires get ready to face a club that never quits and has enough talent to put a scare into most teams. This is going to be a fun series so let’s get into the details.

The Vitals

Records:

Windsor Spitfires – 44-17-4-3 – 95 points – 1st Western Conference

Sarnia Sting – 27-36-4-1 – 59 points – 8th Western Conference

Home-and-Away Records:

Spitfires – 25-7-1-1 (Home); 19-10-3-2 (Road)

Sting – 13-17-3-1 (Home), 14-19-1-0 (Road)

Marc Savard Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard has his club playing rock-solid hockey at the WFCU Centre. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

Goals-For and Goals-Against:

Spitfires- 305 – 248

Sting – 234 – 279

Head-to-Head Record:

Spitfires – 6-4-0-0

Sting – 4-5-1-0

  • Spitfires outscored the Sting 45 – 36.

Leading Producers and Goaltender Stats

Top Three Producers:

Spitfires:

  • 1. Wyatt Johnston – 68 games, 46 goals, 78 points, 124 points (led OHL)
  • 2. Matthew Maggio – 66 games, 38 goals, 47 assists, 85 points
  • 3. Will Cuylle – 59 games, 43 goals, 37 assists, 80 points

Sting:

  • 1. Ty Voit – 67 games, 26 goals, 54 assists, 80 points
  • 2. Nolan Burke – 64 games, 34 goals, 25 assists, 59 points
  • 3. Nolan Dann – 64 games, 29 goals, 28 assists, 57 points
Wyatt Johnston Windsor Spitfires
Wyatt Johnston won the 2021-22 OHL scoring race with 124 points in 68 games. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Goaltenders:

Spitfires:

  • Xavier Medina – 30 games, 18-8-1-2, .891 save-percentage, 3.05 goals-against-average
  • Mathias Onuska – 29 games, 19-5-1-1, .884 SV%, 3.31 G.A.A.

Sting:

  • Benjamin Gaudreau – 44 games, 19-18-4-1, .891 SV%, 3.71 G.A.A.
  • Anson Thornton – 26 games, 8-16-0-0, .883 SV%, 4.06 G.A.A.

What the Spitfires Bring to the Table

Coming into 2021-22, Marc Savard’s club was full of potential but, with plenty of roster turnover and a new coach, lacked any certainty. They struggled in the first month but came together at the trade deadline and haven’t looked back. Led by the trio of Johnston (Dallas Stars), Maggio, and Cuylle (New York Rangers), they have the depth and ability to take over a series offensively. The club led the league in goals (305) and had four 30-plus goal scorers and eight 40-plus point producers. While they struggled at times defensively, they’ve taken care of business when the chips are down and have proven multiple times that they can win the low-scoring games.

Related: Stars Draft Wyatt Johnston 23rd Overall

In goal, veteran Xavier Medina and newcomer Mathias Onuska have become a trusted tandem. Medina was out for much of March with an undisclosed issue but Onuska, who came over at the deadline, was lights-out in his absence. Together, they give the Spitfires a ton of confidence heading into the second season.

Matt Onuska Windsor Spitfires
Goaltender Matt Onuska has been outstanding value for the Windsor Spitfires. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

This is a team that knows how to win and has confidence in spades. They weren’t expected to be the top seed but earned their way into the spot. Now it’s time to see what they do when the pressure is on.

What the Sting Bring to the Table

This is a young, hungry team who’s eager to show that they can play spoiler. Led by Toronto Maple Leafs‘ prospect Ty Voit up front, they play a never-say-quit style that gives teams fits. They proved that several times against the Spitfires this season, forcing the top-seeded club to go the extra mile for any points. Forwards Nolan Burke (59 points), Nolan Dann (57 points), and Theo Hill (53 points) all had career seasons while defencemen Ethan Ritchie (38 points) and Ryan Mast (31 points) had the same.

In goal, San Jose Sharks’ prospect Benjamin Gaudreau and rookie Anson Thornton (Arizona Coyotes) have the potential to steal games. Gaudreau ended the season with four-straight games allowing three or fewer goals so he’s primed to show he can carry his club through a series.

Benjamin Gaudreau Sarnia Sting
Sarnia Sting goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau has a chance to make his mark in this series. (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

While they stumbled into the final playoff spot, this is not a team the Spitfires (or anyone) can take lightly. They’re young, eager, and have the talent to make this a series to remember.

Historical Playoff Tidbits About Spitfires and Sting

Spitfires Playoff Struggles

This season is the first time the Spitfires have finished higher than fifth since 2010-11 when they were the fourth seed. They went to the conference final that season, losing to the Owen Sound Attack in five games.

Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
The last time the Windsor Spitfires won a playoff round was 2010-11 when current Philadelphia Flyers’ defenceman Ryan Ellis was their captain. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since 2011, they’ve been eliminated in the first round six times, including in 2017 against the London Knights (Game 7) prior to winning the Memorial Cup (as hosts). There’s no doubt that the streak is in the back of everyone’s mind.

Sting First Round Fumbles

The Sting are in a similar boat.

Since 2008-09, they’ve made it to the playoffs eight times but only made it out of the first round once. That was in 2017-18 when, strangely, they beat the Spitfires in six games.

Prediction

On paper, the Spitfires have the talent to take this one and finally end their streak. They have the best offence in the league, they’re oozing confidence, and they’ve worked their tails off to get to this spot. Make no mistake, though; the Sting aren’t going down without a serious fight. Don’t be surprised if Gaudreau steals a game or two to make things interesting. Spitfires in five.

The Schedule

(1) Windsor Spitfires vs. (8) Sarnia Sting
Game 1 – Thurs., Apr. 21 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 23 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 – Tues., Apr. 26 at Sarnia – 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 – Thurs., Apr. 28 at Sarnia – 7:05 p.m.
Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 30 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m. *if necessary
Game 6 – Sun., May 1 at Sarnia – 7:05 p.m. *if necessary
Game 7 – Tues., May 3 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m. *if necessary

Ticket Information

Tickets for the games at the WFCU Centre in Windsor range from $18.90 to $43.90 and are available via the Spitfires’ site. Tickets for the games at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia range from $18 to $29 and are available on the Sting’s site.


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