Write up by: Manny Paiva
Follow Manny on twitter at @paivatheway
There was no miraculous comeback this time around as the Windsor Spitfires finished the job and defeated the Saginaw Spirit 5-3 in front of 4,562 fans at the WFCU Centre Sunday afternoon. Windsor jumped out to a 4-1 lead at 3:49 of the second period before Saginaw scored once in the second and on the power play in the third to make it a one-goal game. The Spirit rally conjured flashbacks to the game on Nov. 10, 2019 when Saginaw scored three goals in the final 1:20 of regulation to erase a 6-3 Windsor lead. The Spirit would win that game, 7-6 in overtime.
By finishing the job Sunday, the Spitfires (27-9-5) moved back into first place in the West Division and second in the Western Conference with 59 points. That is one point ahead of the Spirit (27-13-2-2) and Windsor still has three games in hand.
Saginaw opened the scoring when Davis Codd poked a loose puck in the blue ice behind Windsor goaltender Kari Piiroinen at 6:49 of the first period. But the Spitfires scored four unanswered goals to build a 4-1 lead. Wyatt Johnston scored at 8:47 of the first on a nice pass from Grayson Ladd to tie the game at 1. Johnston, a rookie, now has 15 points in his last 16 games. Nashville Predators NHL prospect Egor Afanasyev scored on the power play at 19:41 of the first, blasting home a pro-style shot from the right circle that beat Saginaw starting netminder Tristan Lennox, and Windsor had a 2-1 lead after 1.
Kyle McDonald scored his 12th of the season at 2:12 of the second period, streaking down the right wing and blasting a shot past Lennox. Pasquale Zito scored 97 seconds later, at 3:49 of the second, by streaking down the left wing and shooting high short side on Lennox.
That goal chased Lennox after he allowed four goals on 16 shots and he was replaced by Marshall Frappier. Saginaw would get one back at 15:50 of the second on a goal by Ryan Suzuki, a Carolina Hurricanes NHL prospect. It was his 9th of the season and 4th with the Spirit since being acquired from the Barrie Colts. Philadelphia Flyers NHL prospect Mason Millman scored on the power play at 5:25 of the third period to make it a one-goal game.
But Dallas Stars NHL prospect Curtis Douglas poked a loose puck past Frappier at 13:03 of the third to give Windsor the lead and a 5-3 victory. "We continue to get contributions through out our lineup and often times that is the difference," said Windsor Head Coach Trevor Letowski about his team after the game. "They knew this was obviously a very important game. We had a one goal lead and we had to play smart and organized and we did that."
Windsor and Saginaw have each won three games in the head-to-head season series. The Spitfires win also snapped Saginaw's four game winning streak. Windsor now has points in four straight games and will host the London Knights on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at the WFCU Centre. Douglas said he is looking forward to the game and admitted the Spitfires are playing with a lot of confidence. "We're super, super excited for what the future holds," stated Douglas. "I think we can make a huge playoff run and everyone in the room believes it."
ICE CHIPS: Spitfires forward Cole Purboo was scratched from Sunday's game with an upper body injury after taking a hit from Erie's Jack Duff in Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Otters. That snapped the Windsor overage forward's ironman streak of 244 consecutive games. "That's disappointing. Purboo has been a warrior for us," said Letowski, who hopes to have him in the lineup for Thursday's game versus London. Sunday's game featured dozens of NHL scouts including Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. I'm told 30 of the 32 NHL teams (including Seattle) were at Sunday's game in Windsor. They will also attend the 2020 Bio Steel All American Prospects game at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan on Monday.The reason for so many NHL scouts? There were eight players in Sunday's game that are ranked by Central Scouting in the Midterm rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft. Cole Perfetti is fourth on the list.The Saginaw line of Cole Perfetti, Ryan Suzuki and Cole Coskey easily played 27 to 30 minutes in Sunday's game. While Coskey was held without a point, Perfetti had three assists and Suzuki had a goal and two assists.
________________ Manny Paiva is an award winning broadcaster with 25 years of radio and television experience and has covered the Ontario Hockey League since 1991. Follow Manny on twitter at @paivatheway