It was a long five-and-a-half month offseason for the Windsor Spitfires, but a multi-goal comeback in the 2019-20 home opener had fans on the edge of their seats. Now, the team looks to build on that momentum as they enter their first real test of the season.
Losing in the 2019 OHL’s Western Conference Quarterfinals to the London Knights didn’t sit well with anyone. The Spitfires went through a rollercoaster summer,including significant management restructuring, big signings, and a couple of trades. As the home opener drew closer, fans grew eager to see the puck drop and the team was ready for a clean slate.
While it took the Spitfires a bit of time to find their legs, they more than made up for it in the end.
When you’ve got a full roster and a fan base that’s itching for hockey, a buzz fills the arena before the home opener.
Over 4,800 fans filed into the WFCU Centre in Windsor on Saturday night. The Peterborough Petes were in town which is never an easy task. In their last two meetings in Windsor, the Petes had outscored the Spitfires 10-2.
It looked like history was repeating itself early, too. Mason McTavish, selected fifth overall in April’s draft, scored his first OHL goal to give the Petes a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. That’s when the chaos began.
Three early second-period goals, including two on the power-play, gave the Petes a 4-0 lead. Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Semyon Der-Arguchintsev assisted on all four goals!
Enter Spitfires’ 2019 first-round pick, Wyatt Johnston. The sixth-overall pick scored his first OHL goal 25-seconds later, giving some hope. Momentum slipped away from the Petes as the Spitfires added three more in the next six minutes to tie the game at four.
Before the second period ended, though, the Petes grabbed a 5-4 lead thanks to Tucker Robinson’s first of the season.
We still weren’t done! Tyler Angle and Curtis Douglas gave the Spitfires the lead early in the third, but McTavish’s second with just 10 minutes remaining brought thoughts of overtime.
It wasn’t meant to be, though. Jean-Luc Foudy scored back-to-back goals with less than five minutes remaining, while captain Luke Boka added an empty-net goal, giving the Spitfires a 9-6 win.
It wasn’t the smoothest start to a season, but after scoring just 216 goals last season, the offence was welcomed. Now, they look to keep the systems, and momentum, in-tact.
First Road Trip Awaits
With a win under their belt, the Spitfires now get ready for their first big test of the season – a three-game weekend.
They kick it off at home on Thursday night as they face Jamie Drysdale and the Erie Otters. Drysdale was the fourth overall pick in 2018, is now one of the Otters’ alternate captains, and is a top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. He’s pretty good!
Last weekend, the Otters beat the Sudbury Wolves and Hamilton Bulldogs by a combined 13-7 total. They’re a young team but, like the Spitfires, ready to prove people wrong.
Following the game, the Spitfires hit the road for a pair of games. They play the Bulldogs on Friday night and the rematch against the Otters on Saturday. The Bulldogs split their two games last weekend and are a younger club who could be fighting for a final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
This is the type of weekend that teams look back on when they’re a point or two out of their desired playoff position. Last season, just seven points separated seventh from ninth in the Western Conference. In 2017-18, one point was the difference between sixth and seventh. You can’t take these weekends for granted.
The Spitfires have their full roster so head coach Trevor Letowski is firming up systems, styles, and lines. By getting those in place now, the team can execute, build on the home opener momentum, and create opportunities for themselves.
Letowski doesn’t want to look back at this weekend and wonder what went wrong. Take advantage of the situation while everything else is smooth.
Puck drop against the Otters on Thursday night is set for 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.