The Windsor Spitfires continue to turn heads at the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup.
Logan Brown and Graham Knott each had three points as the Spitfires soundly defeated the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds 7-1 on Sunday night at the WFCU Centre in front of a crowd of 5,237.
In the first few minutes of the game, Seattle pushed the pace, looking like they had something to prove. They got one quick chance, as the puck rolled along the goal line behind Spitfires’ goaltender Michael DiPietro just seconds in, but that was it. The Spitfires used their suffocating defence to prevent anything else.
Less than five minutes into the period, Windsor started creating their own offence and it paid off. Forward Knott tipped a Brown pass over goaltender Carl Stankowski at 4:48 to give the Spitfires the 1-0 lead. Before the rink announcer could say the goal, forward Julius Nattinen took a pass in the slot off a turnover and rifled home his first to make it 2-0 Windsor.
The Thunderbirds couldn’t stop the bleeding as, less than 20-seconds later, Spitfires’ forward Logan stole the puck in the corner, skated out, and slid it under Stankowski to give Windsor the 3-0 lead. The three goals in 38-seconds tied a Memorial Cup record set by New Westminster in 1978.
Changing of the Guard
The Thunderbirds immediately made a goaltending change, bringing in veteran Rylan Toth to replace Stankowski. It was Toth’s first action since he went down with an injury on March 11.
This might have been the spark that the Thunderbirds needed. While Windsor out-shot Seattle 11-3 in the period, they didn’t get anything past Toth.
Seattle found their game in the second period. Just before the midway point of the period, the Spitfires got into some penalty trouble. The Thunderbirds were on a two-man power play for over a minute. Windsor had the best penalty kill in the OHL during the regular season, though, and showed why. Blocked shots, including one with an open net by defenceman Jalen Chatfield, and timely saves kept the Thunderbirds off the score-sheet.
That’s not to say Seattle would be completely denied, though. They managed to cut the lead to 3-1 after a 5-on-3. Keegan Kolesar scored his first of the tournament at 13:34 to give the Thunderbirds life.
Could this be the turning point? Not quite.
Too Much to Handle
Before the period ended, Nattinen had other ideas. At 18:24, he took a pass from a turnover behind the Thunderbirds’ net and promptly put it into the open cage. Seattle had 13 shots in the frame, but the Spitfires were up 4-1 after 40 minutes.
The dagger, though, came just 33 seconds into the third period. A Bracco shot bounced off a Seattle stick, off Knott, off another Thunderbirds’ face and behind Toth to give Windsor the 5-1 lead. Addison and Bracco each added their second of the tournament, as well, and Windsor skated off with a 7-1 win.
With the win, the Spitfires move to 2-0 in the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Their next game is on Wednesday against the OHL champion Erie Otters. The Thunderbirds are off until Tuesday when they face the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs. Monday sees the Otters and Sea Dogs battle it out. All games are scheduled for 7 pm. You can get tickets online at the Mastercard Memorial Cup website.
1st Period –
Spitfires – G. Knott (1) – Assist: L. Brown – 4:48
Spitfires – J. Nattinen (1) – Assist. G. Vilardi – 5:09
Spitfires – L. Brown (1) – Unassisted – 5:26
2nd Period –
Thunderbirds – K. Kolesar (1) – Assist: T. Ottenbreit, M. Barzal – 13:34
Spitfires – J. Nattinen (2) – Assist: J. Addison – 18:24 – PPG
3rd Period –
Spitfires – G. Knott (2) – Assists: J. Bracco, L. Brown – 0:33 – PPG
Spitfires – J. Addison (2) – Assists: A. Luchuk, S. Day – 3:48
Spitfires – J. Bracco (2) – Assists: G. Knott – 13:07
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.