While one win in three games is not what the Windsor Spitfires had hoped for, the two points came on a night where superheroes took over.
A three-game weekend was in the plans for the Spitfires, as they had a home-and-home with the Flint Firebirds on Friday and Saturday before closing out the weekend at home against the London Knights on Sunday.
The start and finish weren’t what the Spits had hoped for, but a hard-fought middle game was perfect timing.
Friday Night Fright
Starting the season with 17 straight losses (0-16-1-0) wasn’t easy for the Firebirds. They had issues in all areas and beating them was almost a foregone conclusion for teams. In late October, the team hired former assistant coach Eric Wellwood, and the results have been night and day. While the team still has issues winning, they’re far more competitive, and it showed Friday night.
Firebirds goaltender Emanuel Vella was a wall from the start, turning aside 20 of 21 shots through two periods. His teammates grabbed an early 1-0 lead on a Jake Durham goal late in the first period, helping their cause.
Any time the Spitfires tried to get something going, they were met by a determined Firebirds club. Only Spitfires forward Mathew MacDougall could solve them, as he scored midway through the second period.
During his playing days, Wellwood was known as a speedy, defensive player who had a bit of a scoring touch. His style has rubbed off on the Firebirds; aggressive forecheck, stingy defensively and a never-quit attitude. While the team isn’t as talented as others, hard work always goes a long way.
It was no different in this game. While the Spitfires outshot the Firebirds 14-9 in the third period, the Firebirds got a power-play goal from Fedor Gordeev and an empty-net goal from Durham to seal the 3-1 win. Vella made 34 saves while his counterpart, Spitfires goaltender Kari Piiroinen, made 28 saves in the loss.
The win gave the Firebirds their third win of the season and snapped their five-game losing streak. For the Spitfires, it gave them a clunky start to the weekend. However, the next two were at home, including a superhero game on Saturday night.
Spitfires Find Spidey Sense
Saturday nights at the WFCU Centre are always intriguing. When you add a great cause, it makes for a special night.
In the second-annual “Superhero Night”, the Spitfires played for the “Fight Like Mason” Foundation and wore specially designed “Spider-Man” jerseys. It’s a story that gripped Windsor and Essex County.
Mason Bacon-Macri was born in May 2012 to parents Iain Macri and Chantelle Bacon. Early on, he grew a love for machines and superheroes and wanted to be a firefighter.
On April 24, 2015, just before he turned three, Mason developed a mass and started having health issues. Tests and scans provided the horrible news—Rhabdomyosarcoma Embryonal, a rare form of cancer made from cells that usually become skeletal bones.
The family endured several surgeries and treatments but, while they received good news, it was often met with bad news soon after. They never gave up, though. Mason was allowed to go home for his fourth birthday in May 2016, and everything looked good.
Just three weeks later, he became sick again, and it was discovered that his liver had over two-dozen tumours. Unfortunately, it was terminal. Despite his incredible, courageous fight, Mason sadly passed away on June 27, 2016.
After that, Macri and Bacon started the “Fight Like Mason” Foundation, a charity organization designed to improve treatment and quality of life through childhood cancers. Through that, they created Mason’s Power Poles, which are specially created IV poles, including Batman and Wonder Woman. These coloured, medical-grade poles are designed to show the world how brave and courageous the children truly are.
As for the game itself, the Spitfires started slow but found their “super” gear. Firebirds forward Eric Uba scored early in the first period, then added one just after puck-drop in the second period to give the Firebirds a 2-1 lead.
That woke the Spitfires up, though, as five players—Will Cuylle, Connor Corcoran, Luke Kutkevicius, Cole Purboo and Louka Henault—all found the net behind Vella. Henault’s goal was his first in the OHL. In total, 11 Spitfires recorded at least one point.
While Ryan Bangs added a third goal for the Firebirds, they couldn’t keep up as the Spitfires took a 6-3 win.
The Firebirds fired 29 shots on goaltender Michael DiPietro while the Spitfires put 33 on Vella. A 5-for-6 effort in the penalty kill helped the Spitfires cause, too.
After a surprising loss on the road on Friday night, this was a redemption game and one the Spitfires needed. While the Firebirds are a much-improved team since Wellwood’s hiring, losing two straight, including one on a special night, wouldn’t have sat well with the Spitfires heading into a big Sunday afternoon tilt.
Knights’ Foudy Flourishes
Any time you say “Spitfires v. Knights”, ears perk up across the league. The storied rivalry continued on Sunday afternoon as the Knights made the trip into Windsor. The Knights came in having won 11-straight and are on a mission for another OHL title.
It also marked the second meeting between brothers Liam (Knights) and Jean-Luc (Spitfires) Foudy. During their first meeting in early October, neither found the scoresheet. This time, the older brother Liam got the best of his brother, Spitfires’ first-round pick Jean-Luc.
Early in the game, though, it was the younger Foudy that had the edge. After Curtis Douglas opened the scoring for the Spitfires, Jean-Luc assisted on a Daniel D’Amico goal to give the Spitfires a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Liam one-upped his brother just after the second period started, scoring his first of two on the night. He was followed in the second by Matvey Guskov to tie the game up at two. Liam assisted on a goal from Connor McMichael late in the third period on a power play, then added his second of the game on a two-on-one with Alex Forementon. What was a 2-0 Spitfires lead turned into a 4-2 Knights score, which became the final.
The Spitfires had plenty of energy over the first 30 minutes but the Guskov goal, which was off a turnover in front of DiPietro, was the deflator. The Knights outshot the Spitfires 10-4 in the third period, a clear indicator that the tank was on ‘E.’
This wasn’t the weekend the Spitfires had planned for but, if they were going to get a single win, Saturday night was the time to do it. They also showed they could play with the Knights; it was a confidence booster, if not two points.
Spitfires head coach Trevor Letowski and his team now wait until Thursday when the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds come into town. Once that’s done, the Spitfires hop the bus for a Saturday afternoon game in Hamilton against the Bulldogs and a Sunday evening match in Oshawa against the Generals.
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.