With the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Christmas break just around the corner, the Windsor Spitfires were in no mood to be giving out seasons greetings. Instead, they grabbed four points in a pair of Western Conference games and watched as a veteran re-wrote the history books.
The Spitfires’ first half has been a rollercoaster; more ups than downs, but enough to make life interesting. Entering the weekend, they sat in third in the conference, just two points behind the Saginaw Spirit for that top spot. However, they had the pesky Erie Otters, who gave them fits last weekend on the road, and the always dangerous Owen Sound Attack to wrap up before the holidays. While stressful, captain Matthew Maggio (New York Islanders) did his best to make life a bit better for his hometown fans. It wasn’t an event that anyone expected but a pretty perfect Christmas gift for his team and the fans. Here are three takeaways from the weekend before Christmas.
3 Takeaways from the Otters & Attack
Thurs., Dec. 15 – 6-3 win over Erie Otters (home)
Sat., Dec. 17 – 5-4 win over Owen Sound Attack (road)
3. Maggio Scores Five, Ties Spitfires’ Records
From being named captain of his hometown team to being a New York Islanders draft pick, it’s been quite a year for Maggio. On Thursday night (Dec. 15), he added to his resume, becoming just the fourth Spitfire (including forward Daniel D’Amico in January 2020) to score five goals in a game and just the second to score two shorthanded goals. This humble kid from Tecumseh, ON (Windsor suburb) was in awe.
“Yeah, it’s kind of surreal and definitely hasn’t kicked in yet,” he said after the game. “When I go home and think about this, it’s definitely a night I’m not going to forget for a long time. To be ingrained in the history here in Windsor with the culture and the players that have come through here … I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that.”
The team has a WWE-style Player of the Game belt. At one point, rookie Liam Greentree came to Maggio’s defence after a hit. In appreciation, Maggio gave him the belt. Head coach Marc Savard, who once had a five-goal game for the Oshawa Generals (413 points from 1993-97), applauded the move.
“He gets the belt for getting five goals and passes it along to Greentree for coming to his defence,” Savard said. “Those are the moments you want in your room.”
After the game, Maggio said he was blessed to have his friends, family, and teammates on this journey, and specifically wanted to thank Greentree.
“Especially a shoutout to Greentree, who’s a young guy in the league and will be a great player in this league,” he said. “(Him) stepping up and fighting for me, I think that means more than the five goals in terms of the locker room and showing we have each other’s back… That was the most special part.”
2. Abraham & Johnston Injury Update
In late November, forwards Thomas Johnston and Ryan Abraham were both sidelined with injuries. At the time, they were listed as “week-to-week” but little else was mentioned. After Thursday’s game, we were given a brief update.
“Abraham is skating, so that’s a good sign,” Savard said. “He’ll skate throughout the break at home. He has ice. Then, we’ll judge it from there.”
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Abraham was the Spitfires’ first-round pick in 2020 and was having a breakout season with eight goals and 26 points in 21 games after 46 points in 64 games in 2021-22. The 5-foot-8, 168-pound forward had found a spot on the top line with Maggio (who now has 45 points in 28 games on the season) before the injury.
Savard didn’t comment on Johnston, who the team acquired from the Ottawa 67’s in October. The 5-foot-9, 161-pound 19-year-old had four points in 13 games with the Spitfires before being injured.
1. Spitfires’ Goaltenders Turn into Tandem
On most junior hockey teams, you have a veteran starter and one (or two) rookies fighting for the coveted backup spot. The Spitfires thought they had that, but rookie goaltender Joey Costanzo had other ideas.
When general manager Bill Bowler acquired the 17-year-old from the Niagara IceDogs in late September, he envisioned the goaltender of the future learning from the current veteran, 20-year-old Mathias Onuska. It hasn’t happened quite like that, though. Instead, they’ve battled for crease supremacy.
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Through 30 games so far, the two have had a 20/13 split in games played with Onuska leading the way. However, since the start of November, the veteran has played in 11 games while the rookie is right there with nine.
It was no different this weekend, either, as Onuska started against the Otters while Costanzo got the call against the Attack. After Thursday’s game, Savard said both have proven worthy of the ice time.
“It’s a lot of 1A and 1B right now,” he said. “We can’t discredit what Joey’s done here. He’s played great for us … Onuska’s been finding his groove, too, so we’ve got a nice one-two punch and we can use either guy on any night.”
Costanzo enters the break with a record of 7-2-0-1, a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.15, and a .901 save percentage (SV%) while Onuska has a 3.85 GAA, .878 SV%, and a 12-5-3-0 record. He’s allowed four goals against just once through five games in December. It’s the consistency and performance that the club needs to see, especially before the Tues., Jan. 10 trade deadline. The Spitfires now head into the break tied with the Spirit with 42 points, with a game-in-hand, and one point up on the London Knights, who have two in hand.