Windsor Spitfires’ Weekly: COVID-19 Still Creating January Chaos

While the Windsor Spitfires have been busy preparing for a very busy second half of the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season, there’s still a pesky nuisance that refuses to go away – COVID-19. The club started the month with three-straight postponed games but had gotten into a solid rhythm, playing six of their last seven. However, the club took a bit of a step back last weekend, and now all eyes have shifted to their safety and the upcoming schedule.

There’s an old saying in life – “don’t take anything for granted.” While it may be cliche at times, it’s certainly fitting for the current state of the OHL. Since December, the OHL has postponed numerous games because of COVID-19 protocols. The Spitfires have seen several of theirs in the same boat since Christmas. In turn, the importance and appreciation for every game are escalated. Last weekend, the club saw two hard-nosed battles before league protocols set in again, and now they wait to see if a busy end of the month will actually happen.

Let’s get into some detail…

Conference Split and COVID Protocols

The Spitfires came into last week, taking nothing for granted. They knew that games could be postponed at any momentum. They still had a tough schedule to prepare for, though, and it started on Thursday night as they welcomed the Soo Greyhounds to town.

In their last meetings, back-to-back contests up north just two weeks prior, the Spitfires shocked everyone with 5-2 and 10-4 wins. That wasn’t the Greyhounds team we’re used to, and they wanted serious revenge.

On Thursday, the visitors suffocated the Spitfires’ offense, outshooting them 25-10 after 40 minutes. However, quitting doesn’t work for Marc Savard’s club. The home side peppered goaltender Tucker Tynan with 15 shots in the third, tying the game with seconds left.

Overtime solved nothing, so they went to a shootout where Spitfires’ veteran Daniel D’Amico slid it between Tynan’s legs for the 3-2 win. Goaltender Xavier Medina, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, made 37 saves for the win.

Xavier Medina, Windsor Spitfires
A 37-save win against a division rival was a solid way for Windsor Spitfires’ goaltender Xavier Medina to spend his birthday. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

The team had no time to celebrate, though, as they immediately hit the road to face Francesco Pinelli and the Kitchener Rangers on Friday night. In their last meeting, just after Christmas, a depleted Spitfires’ lineup couldn’t find their game, coming out with a 6-3 loss.

Related: Los Angeles Kings Draft Francesco Pinelli 42nd Overall

While this one was closer, it became the Mitchell Martin show. The Rangers’ rookie opened the scoring early in the first period and, after the teams were tied in the third period, planted the game-winner and insurance markers for the 4-2 win. Goaltender Pavel Cajan made 34 saves in the win.

The Spitfires were scheduled to return home to face the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. However, that was all thrown out the window a few hours before puck drop as the league placed the Spitfires back on COVID-19 protocol.

What happens now?

Spitfires End January with Uncertainty

While it’s still very early in the week, there’s already plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Spitfires for this weekend.

Before last Thursday night’s game against the Greyhounds, Spitfires’ forward Ryan Abraham and defenceman Daniil Sobolev (Montreal Canadiens) were placed on league COVID-19 protocol. Then, Sunday’s game was postponed because the team couldn’t dress the league minimum. It’s an ever-changing situation that makes this week a real toss-up.

The schedule has the club at home to the Sarnia Sting on Thursday night before hitting the road to face the Guelph Storm on Friday and the Erie Otters on Saturday. Unfortunately, that may not all happen.

On Monday afternoon, the OHL postponed Saturday’s game with the Otters due to COVID-19 protocol. However, the league said that the protocol doesn’t affect the Otters, which points to the Spitfires having issues.

Let’s assume that the games against the Sting and Storm still take place.

The Sting are in a bitter fight to stay in the playoffs and have points in their last four games, including a dramatic 6-5 win over the Spitfires at home. There’s no love between these clubs and, with so much on the line, neither side can afford to look past it.

Friday night’s game against the Storm has all the makings of a classic. The Spitfires won their only meeting this season, a 6-3 decision at the WFCU Centre in Windsor. However, the Storm has been near-or-at the top of the conference for much of the season. For two teams on hot streaks (each has points in 7-of-10), this has incredible potential.

Danny Zhilkin, Guelph Storm
Guelph Storm forward Danny Zhilkin is having a career season in 2021-22. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

With the Spitfires placed on league COVID-19 protocol on Sunday, we have to take this weekend day-by-day. It’s not a good situation to be in, but the health and safety of everyone are paramount.

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