There has been nothing “normal” about the post-Christmas era of the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season. From COVID-19 postponing games to a busier-than-normal schedule and now a unique atmosphere at the rink, the Windsor Spitfires find themselves doing everything possible to keep focus. After a weekend split, they’re looking head-on at a busy weekend, which may be their one hint of normality.
Games were a given before the pandemic hit, and most didn’t think twice about it. You went to the rink, the games were played, and life moved on. Just about two years later, though, the mentality is completely different. Games are postponed, teams are never sure when they’ll play, and nothing is taken for granted. While life at the rink is different, the Spitfires still managed to bank some much-needed points last weekend as they get ready for (hopefully) a busy upcoming weekend.
Let’s get into it!
Sting and Firebirds Split
While COVID-19 postponed more games, the Spitfires managed to play one normal game plus a rescheduled game. The club hit the road to face the Sarnia Sting on Friday night before coming home to battle the Flint Firebirds in the New Year’s Eve makeup game.
After back-to-back dominating wins against the Soo Greyhounds on the road last weekend, the Spitfires were eager to hit the ice in Sarnia. It didn’t have quite the same result, though.
With no fans in attendance due to provincial regulations, the Spitfires grabbed an early 1-0 lead thanks to Pasquale Zito (Detroit Red Wings). However, the Sting responded with three of their own, and it became a high-scoring affair with each side having multi-goal bursts. A trio of Sting goals late in the third period became the dagger, though, as the home side takes a 6-5 come-from-behind win. It was a tough pill to swallow.
The Spitfires needed a rebound game, and that was Sunday afternoon at home against the Firebirds. It was their first time at home in front of no fans. However, the team put cardboard cutouts behind the benches and the normal music on the speakers to help the atmosphere.
While the Firebirds opened the scoring with a pair of goals, the home side grabbed the momentum by tying it 2-2 after 20 minutes. Brennan Othmann gave the visitors a 3-2 lead very early in the second, and that was as far as they would get. The Spitfires scored once in the second and three more in the final 20 minutes for a convincing 6-3 win.
Johnston, Cuylle, and linemate Matthew Maggio led the way again with a combined eight points.
Greyhounds and Rangers On Deck
While their defensive coverage needs some work, the Spitfires’ offence is something to behold. They’re on pace for 305 goals, which would be their highest total since the 2009-10 Memorial Cup champions scored 331.
With the win over the Firebirds, the Spitfires pull to within four points of the Soo Greyhounds for first in the West Division and also give themselves a two-point cushion on the Firebirds themselves. However, life’s not going to get any easier this weekend.
On Thursday night, the Greyhounds make their way into the WFCU Centre, looking for revenge following the sweep up north. The Spitfires outscored them 15-6, including a 10-4 domination in the finale. The visitors are coming off back-to-back wins against the resilient Owen Sound Attack, so don’t expect double-digits again. The teams split a pair of games before the recent sweep, each winning 4-3.
Friday night, the Spitfires head up the 401 for a battle with the Rangers at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. While the home side is fighting to stay in the playoffs, they have won three-of-four against the Spitfires this season. The teams have Saturday off before meeting up at the WFCU Centre in Windsor for the finale Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, there will still be no fans allowed in the rink for any of the three games. Ontario COVID-19 regulations are in place for another week, at least. However, the Spitfires will likely provide the best “game” experience they can for the fans at home. In these conditions, any chance you have to connect the fans and the team in a creative way is appreciated.
Thursday night’s game is set for 7:35 PM while Sunday afternoon’s tilt sees puck drop at 4:05 PM.
A nearly life-long resident of Windsor, ON, I graduated from St. Clair College (Journalism) and University of Windsor (Communications) and have attended Windsor Spitfires’ (and OHL) games for 30-years. My areas include multimedia journalism and photography.