Spitfires Win Wayne Gretzky Trophy, Advance to OHL Championship

The Windsor Spitfires are heading to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Championship Series for the first time since 2010 after a stunning Game 7 win over the Flint Firebirds in the Western Conference Final. Now, the top seed in the west gets ready for their biggest challenge to date.

Coming into the series with the third-seeded Firebirds, the Spitfires knew they had something special with their club. They dominated the regular season (13-game winning streak at the end, plus a league-leading 305 goals scored), but it was their resilient, never-say-die attitude in the playoffs that stood out. Throughout the playoffs, they had ups-and-down, pinning themselves against a wall and forced to fight back. However, they managed every time. After winning Game 6 on Tuesday, they came into Game 7 at the WFCU Centre on Wednesday knowing neither team had won two straight in the series and every game was an epic battle. Only one team could prevail, though.

Spitfires’ Veterans Shine in Game 7

After a dramatic 3-2 overtime win in Game 6 in Flint just 24-hours prior, the Spitfires had the chance to take the series at home on Wednesday night in front of their faithful.

Over 6,350 fans packed the WFCU Centre and the Spitfires gave them plenty to celebrate. Veteran Daniel D’Amico, who had two goals a night earlier, scored another pair for a 2-0 lead after 20. The barn was rocking and the home side continued to pour it on as Alex Christopoulos added his eighth for a 3-0 lead.

That’s all the Spitfires needed thanks to stingy defence and rock-solid goaltending from veteran Xavier Medina. The Firebirds pulled Cavallin late but D’Amico completed his hat-trick into the empty net. That’s it – the Spitfires are your 2022 OHL Western Conference Champions (Wayne Gretzky Trophy) with a 4-0 final.

Windsor Spitfires OHL Western Conference title
The Windsor Spitfires win the OHL Western Conference title. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

After the game, the 21-year-old D’Amico said he’s trying to enjoy all of this. He’s not ready for his junior career to end.

“I don’t want my OHL career to end,” he said.

“These times are really important for me and really special to me and the guys in the room … every time I step out on that ice, I know it could be my last time and my junior career. Every moment is special for me.”

Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard said you have to enjoy the moment. While it’s not popular, sometimes that means going against the superstition of not touching the conference trophy.

“We have to enjoy this,” he said.

“There are times in your life, like when we got the trophy tonight and not touching it and not doing this, where you have to enjoy the moment. For us tonight, just let the guys take the trophy … You don’t get this every day.”

Game 7 Scoring Summary

1st Period:

Windsor – Daniel D’Amico (7) from Jacob Maillet – 7:46
Windsor – Daniel D’Amico (8) from Matthew Maggio – 13:30

2nd Period:

Windsor – Alex Christopoulos (8) from Oliver Peer and Ryan Abraham – 16:10

3rd Period:

Windsor – Daniel D’Amico (9) from Wyatt Johnston (empty net) – 17:06

Spitfires and Hamilton Bulldogs Clash for OHL Championship

It all comes down to this. The Spitfires will now take on the Eastern Conference Champion Hamilton Bulldogs for the OHL title. It’s going to be a classic in every sense.

Related: Windsor Spitfires Start 2021-22 OHL Trade Deadline with a Bang

The Bulldogs cruised through the regular season with a 51-12-3-2 record, going undefeated in their last 15 in regulation, but also went 12-0 in the playoffs. They scored 300 and allowed a league-best 176 in the regular season. The playoffs have been no different, outscoring their opponents 60-21 in just 12 games. They were ranked first in Canada for a reason.

Arber Xhekaj Hamilton Bulldogs
Defenceman Arber Xhekaj was a big deadline acquisition for the Hamilton Bulldogs. (Brandon Taylor/OHL Images)

How will they fare against the Spitfires? The teams didn’t face each other this season because of COVID-19 schedule changes so there’s a bit of an unknown. That’s what makes this series so intriguing, though. You have two high-octane clubs and it’s the fight everyone’s been waiting for. Game 1 goes Friday night at the First Ontario Center in Hamilton and Savard said the quick turnaround might actually help them.

“When we have a week off, we come back a little rusty,” he said.

“This might not be a bad thing for us. We’ll travel to Hamilton (on Thursday), talk to the guys, and see what the plan is.”