Adversity is a part of sports, but it’s how you respond that matters in the long run. After an emotionally difficult loss to a long-time rival, the Windsor Spitfires knew the only direction was up. However, with a pair of road games last weekend, nothing was going to come easy.
After winning the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Western Conference Championship last season, the Spitfires started 2022-23 full of confidence. They knew they had a target on their back, but an 8-0-3-0 start to the season showed they weren’t going to give up their titles easily. While it’s been an entertaining ride for head coach Marc Savard and his club, there have been speed bumps along the way. Last weekend was no different as a pair of road games showed they still have plenty to work on before the holidays and the always-big trade deadline in January. Here are three takeaways from the weekend.
3 Takeaways from Sting and Rangers
Fri., Nov. 18 – 3-2 loss at Sarnia Sting
Sun., Nov 20 – 8-4 win at Kitchener Rangers
3. Adversity Can Be Beneficial
After a very difficult 6-1 loss to the London Knights at home on Nov. 13, the Spitfires took a few days off before regrouping to face the Sting on the road. Normally, Savard’s club responds with a gutsy, offensive effort to grab two points. However, this was different as the home side limited the visitors to just 23 shots in the 3-2 loss. Losing two in a row in regulation doesn’t happen often; it’s the first time this season and just the fifth time since Savard became the bench boss in August 2021.
The streak stopped there, though, after the Spitfires’ veterans arrived at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Sunday with a serious chip on their shoulder. They don’t take losing lightly and made the Rangers pay with an 8-4 win, including veteran Alex Christopoulos with a three-point night.
That was the response they needed. You’re going to lose games; that’s the reality in any sport. However, a humbling loss and their first back-to-back loss of the season can be mentally tough when expectations are so high. With a new leadership group in place, take that adversity and make sure it doesn’t happen again. This club is too good to let anything negative fester.
2. CHL Top 10 Never a Guarantee
Last season, the Spitfires were a lock in the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Top-10 weekly rankings. At one point, they were as high as fourth in the country. This season started similarly with a pair of Honourable Mentions before they moved up to seventh after a few weeks. However, it’s been a bit of a struggle to stay there.
Last week, they fell one spot to eighth, which was justified after their loss to the Knights. This week, they’re down to 10th, and they’ve even lost first place in the conference. That now belongs to the Saginaw Spirit (by two points), though the Spitfires have two games in hand.
When they were seventh, the club said they watched the rankings every week because they wanted to prove they’re one of the best in the country. It’s safe to say that’s been accomplished. However, now it’s a matter of realizing that talent on paper doesn’t always equal wins. If you don’t bring your best every night, losses are going to pile up and the rankings will be a thing of the past. Having a contender on paper is great, but if it doesn’t translate to the ice, what’s the point?
Now that they know what it’s like to fall in the rankings, and that they’re close to slipping out completely, they can find a way to grab on and push themselves back up. Take nothing for granted.
1. Bowler Has Decisions To Make
While the club does its thing on the ice, you can’t help but notice that November is quickly coming to an end. This means the OHL trade deadline is starting to peek over the horizon (Jan. 10). General manager Bill Bowler has some decisions to make.
At this point last season, he brought in Christopoulos and Jacob Maillet before he made a few more big moves at the deadline. Coming into this season’s deadline, with the club contending, it’s likely that Bowler is in buy mode. However, where do they upgrade?
Latest News & Highlights
The team is second in the OHL in goals scored and, with five players on pace for point-per-game seasons, depth is not in question. Is it worth the price to go after a big offensive fish?
What about upgrading the defence? After losing three veterans in the offseason, the Spitfires came into the season with just one defenceman with multiple seasons of experience (Michael Renwick). Bringing in a big, crease-clearing veteran could help the younger guys.
Bowler could also upgrade the goaltending. While 20-year-old Mathias Onuska was their rock last season, he was injured before training camp and has struggled to find that magic this season with a .874 save percentage (SV%) (down from .882 last season) and a 4.05 goals-against average (GAA) (up from 3.34) through 14 games. Could the injury be hampering him? Fortunately, rookie Joey Costanzo has really stepped up (2.97 GAA, .904 SV% in seven names) and is making a case for more ice time.
While Bowler takes care of business off the ice, the club gets ready for a busy weekend. They have a pair of home games — Wednesday against the Owen Sound Attack and Friday against the Flint Firebirds — before finishing up on the road on Saturday against the Saginaw Spirit.
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.