It was a good ride. For 13 games, the Windsor Spitfires climbed their way to the top of the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference with a long point streak. All good things must come to an end, though, and now the team prepares to start a new month with some holiday cheer.
Getting to the top the conference is a task but staying there is even tougher. Everyone wants to knock you down and, if you don’t bring your best, it could come crashing to a halt. The Spitfires found that out the tough way last weekend.
A pair of tough games had them scrambling, but maybe it’s the adversity they’ve needed.
Two Bad Knights
Last week, the Spitfires were ranked the #3 team in Canada and had a 13-game point streak. Not bad for a club that finished eighth last season. Instead of adding to the streak, though, they found a bump in the road.
Friday, they headed up the 401 for a date with the London Knights, who had won 9-of-10. Kari Piiroinen started for the Spitfires while Dylan Myskiw had the Knights net.
From the get-go, the Knights peppered Piiroinen, finishing with 27 shots through the opening 40 minutes. They refused to let the Spitfires get anything going, earning a 3-0 lead.
The domination continued in the third as the lead grew to 6-1, including six different scorers for the Knights. The Spitfires managed two goals late, but it was simply wasn’t enough in a 6-3 final. The impressive point streak was over.
Sulking was not an option, though, as the Spitfires headed home for a Saturday game against the Niagara IceDogs. This time, Xavier Medina got the start for the home side.
An angry Spitfires’ team came out with something to prove, pouring 12 shots on goaltender Tucker Tynan in the first. It worked, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Despite the lead, something was lacking. The game had a different feel from the normal pedal-the-floor Spitfires’ energy. The IceDogs tied in the game in the second thanks to a pair of power play goals, draining all home momentum.
Early in the third, the IceDogs took the 3-2 lead, forcing the Spitfires to put everything they could on Tynan. He shut the door, though, earning the one-goal win.
This weekend was a tough pill to swallow for the Spitfires. It marked their first back-to-back regulation losses since early October and their first regulation loss at home all season.
Adversity Part of OHL Life
When you’re expected to compete for home ice, being at the top of the conference and league is a surprise. It also means you need to deal with some adversity. In fact, every top team faces challenges throughout the season.
The Spitfires come into this first weekend of December with the fewest games played in the league (23). While they have taken advantage of their opportunities so far, losing two-straight games presents a bit of a mind game. It’s only happened a couple of times this season. They’ve been a confident bunch and rightfully so. Now that the streak is over, though, the leadership group needs to find a way to get them back on track.
Thursday night, the Spitfires welcome the Kitchener Rangers to town, a team that’s struggling but also won their only meeting earlier in October. A win here goes a long way to getting momentum back, especially with a key rival 24-hours later.
Saturday night, it’s back into Michigan for another game with Cole Perfetti and the Saginaw Spirit, who sit two points back in a very tight conference. With three weeks before the Christmas break, and the trade deadline a month away (Jan. 10), this might be the golden chance the Spitfires need. Learn from the mistakes last weekend, start a new streak, and show the league they aren’t going away.
If all goes well, general manager Bill Bowler could have some tough choices to make. Buckle up, Spits fans. The holiday/deadline season is just getting warmed up.
Puck drop on Thursday night is at 7:05 p.m.
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.