The streak was bound to end at some point. After a strong start to their 2022-23 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) campaign, going undefeated in regulation through their first 11 games, the Windsor Spitfires finally found the loss column this past weekend. Now it’s a matter of picking themselves up, dusting off, and learning from their mistakes.
After going to Game 7 of the OHL Championship Series last season, the Spitfires knew they had enough returning talent to make some noise this season. How much is still to be determined but a 6-0-3 start to the season had them itching to keep playing. However, in their first three-games-in-three-days weekend, they’re learning that nothing is a given and losses are going to be part of the season. There were three key takeaways from this Halloween weekend as they finished up October.
3 Halloween Weekend Takeaways
Thurs., Oct. 27 – 6-3 win over North Bay Battalion (home)
Fri., Oct. 28 – 11-3 win over Niagara IceDogs (road)
Sat., Oct. 29 – 7-4 loss to Erie Otters (road)
3. Wyatt Johnston is a Luxury, Not a Necessity
Last season, Dallas Stars’ prospect Wyatt Johnston became the heartbeat of the Spitfires. If he was having a good night, which was far more often than not, the club was finding success. However, this season has been a far different story… in a good way.
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When Johnston went to the Stars’ camp, the Spitfires knew there was a chance he could stick with the team. While his options were limited to the NHL or OHL, a return to juniors after 124 points in 68 games seemed unlikely. Add in the graduation of several veterans, including captain Will Cuylle (New York Rangers), and their offensive production seemed to be an area of possible concern.
Just one month into the season, though, the offence is proving they’re more than capable of standing on their own. With 61 goals in 12 games, which is second in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) in goals per game (5.1) to only the Seattle Thunderbirds (Western Hockey League (WHL) – 5.5), very little is getting in their way.
Forwards Ryan Abraham (18 points in 12 games) and Matthew Maggio (17 points in 10 games) are third and eighth in the league in scoring, respectively, and six players are on pace for point-per-game seasons. Even veteran defenceman Michael Renwick (nine points in 11 games) is on pace to shatter his previous high of 29 points in 67 games. Throw in production from rookies Anthony Cristoforo (nine points in 12 games) and A.J. Spellacy (seven points in 12 games) and you’ve got a club that’s proving depth can go a very long way. It’s still very early but it’s a positive sign for the future.
The Stars announced on Monday (Oct. 31) that Johnston would be staying with them for the foreseeable future. While it would be nice for the Spitfires to have him return, he’s more of a luxury than a necessity at this point. That may change down the road but, for now, it’s not a bad thing for everyone involved.
2. Colton Smith Bringing Bang for Buck
When the club acquired 18-year-old power forward Colton Smith over the summer, ears perked up around the league. Drafted by the London Knights in the second round in 2020, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Smith came advertised as a producer who could protect his teammates with equal ability. That’s no surprise as his dad, D.J., was one of the best defencemen in Spitfires’ history.
Smith scored 13 goals in 41 games as a rookie with the Knights but something didn’t seem to fit quite right. He was traded to the Spitfires over the summer for a fourth-round pick in 2025 and, while it started off slowly, it’s becoming a bit of a perfect match.
He started with just one assist in four games but found his groove after Thanksgiving with five points in two road games. Last weekend, he continued that with another two-point effort against the Battalion. While he sat out of the IceDogs and Otters games because of an injury, he was the first one to help out Cristoforo during a scrum against the Battalion and always seems to be in the middle of protecting teammates. He’s also getting out into the community to visit young fans, showing a side that many appreciate.
Early in the season, something was lacking in his game and questions started coming up. However, Smith’s true colours are starting to show and it’s exactly what the Spitfires had hoped for when they acquired him. If he can maintain any consistency, this is a deal the team will remember for a long time.
1. Rebound More Important Than Loss Itself
Let’s be realistic – going undefeated (in regulation) in any sport in any season is incredibly difficult. You’re going to lose at some point.
The Spitfires came into last weekend undefeated in regulation through nine games (6-0-3-0) and knew that they could compete with anyone. However, keeping that streak alive, especially playing three games in three nights, was a tough ask. While they won their first two games of the weekend by lopsided scores, Saturday night (Oct. 29) was a different story. They had a 3-1 lead over the Otters in a notoriously tough Erie Insurance Arena, a place where success has been hard to come by. When the dust settled, the home side scored six straight goals to take a stunning 7-4 win. The streak had ended after 11 games.
Swallowing the loss was tough; you know it’s inevitable but the way they lost doesn’t make it any easier. However, it’s what happens next that is more important. The club now gets ready for another three-game weekend (in four days) with two of those coming at the WFCU Centre in Windsor. Their response is crucial to ensuring that this slide doesn’t snowball and that’s where head coach Marc Savard and his veterans come into play. They had two tough losses to end last season, rebounded, and went on to a massive playoff run. Take this loss on the chin, learn from it, build, and use it to your advantage. The team will be stronger for it over the long haul.
Despite the loss, the Spitfires moved up one spot in the weekly CHL Top-10 Rankings, going from eighth to seventh. They’ll get a chance to prove they can rebound this weekend, starting at home on Thursday night against the Sarnia Sting. That’s followed by a Saturday afternoon tilt on the road against the Mississauga Steelheads before finishing at home on Sunday afternoon against the Kingston Frontenacs.
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.