Resilient Spitfires once again rally to beat Rangers and take a 3-1 series lead

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Knocked down again, the Windsor Spitfires once again pulled themselves off the canvas to win the fight.

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For the third time in this series, the top-seeded Spitfires trailed the seventh-seeded Kitchener Rangers after the opening 20 minutes of play.

Once agin, the Spitfires used a big second period to carry the team to victory over the Rangers.

“With our first periods not great, we’ve been able to regroup and reset for the second periods and come out strong,” Spitfires’ center and OHL scoring champion Wyatt Johnston said. “We are very resilient and able to regroup well.”

Four-unanswered goals in the second period erased an early two-goal lead for Kitchener and the Spitfires went on to a 6-3 win over the Rangers before 4,201 at the Memorial Auditorium.

With the win, the Spitfires lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap up the Western Conference semifinal series in Game 5 at home on Saturday. Game time at the WFCU Center is 7:05 p.m.

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“You know, I think our team is confident no matter the score,” Spitfires’ defenseman Michael Renwick said. “No matter the score, we feel we can outplay teams and, whether it’s from behind or with the lead, we know we can win in the end.”

Mitchell Martin and Carson Rehkopf had the Rangers up 2-0 after the first period, but Renwick’s first goal of the playoffs, on a Windsor power play, had the Spitfires within a goal just 75 seconds into the second period.

“We knew they would throw everything they had at us in the first period,” Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard said of the Rangers. “I didn’t love the way we responded, but we didn’t panic.

“The power-play goal was huge to start and we rolled from there.”

Josh Currie had Windsor even less than seven minutes into the period. After killing off an extended two-man advantage for the Rangers, Alex Christopoulos picked up a loose puck in the faceoff circle and put the Spitfires up for good at 3-2. Johnston added another before the end of the period and Windsor was up 4-2 after 40 minutes.

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“I don’t really think there’s a difference between periods,” said Renwick, who has seen his team outscore the Rangers 12-2 in the second period in this series. “I think we just knew that if we wanted to win, we would have to work harder and that’s what we did.”

Rehkopf’s second of the game got the Rangers to within a goal less than eight minutes into the third period, but goalie Matt Onuska would not allow another.

Christopoulos came back with his second goal of the game and then assisted on Johnston’s empty-net goal with both players finishing the game with four points and the Spitfires finished with a dominating 44-24 advantage in shots. Lineman Will Cuylle added three assists in the game.

After losing home-ice advantage in the series with a loss in Game 2 at home, the Spitfires responded with back-to-back wins in Kitchener to put the team within a goal of reaching the Western Conference final for the first time since 2011.

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“We just wanted to take it a game at a time,” said Johnston, who has 14 points in four games in the series and leads the OHL in playoff scoring. “We focused on winning the first one on Tuesday. Once we got that done, our focus shifted towards (Thursday). It was great that we were able to get both.”

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Game Summary

Monday Result

Spitfires 6 Rangers 3

Windsor 0 4 2 – 6

Kitchener 2 0 1 – 3

Firstperiod: 1. Kitchener, Martin 7 (Motew) 14:49, 2. Kitchener, Rehkopf 3 (Mutter, Motew) 18:52. Penalties: Swick K (elbowing) 15:54, Martin K (cross checking) 19:43.

Secondperiod: 3. Windsor, Renwick 1 (Johnston, D’Amico) 1:15 (pp), 4. Windsor, Currie 2 (Miedema, Henault) 6:29, 5. Windsor, Christopoulos 5 (Cuylle) 12:18, 6. Windsor, Johnston 7 (Christopoulos, Cuylle) 14:57. Penalties: Sobolev W (high sticking) 9:32, Johnston W (hooking) 10:15, Renwick W (holding) 17:23, Valade K (interference) 19:23.

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Third period: 7. Kitchener, Rehkopf 4 (Serpa, Motew) 7:44, 8. Windsor, Christopoulos 6 (Cuylle, Johnston) 13:03, 9. Windsor, Johnston 8 (Christopoulos) 18:01 (en). Penalties: Baisov W (unsportsmanlike conduct), Pinelli K (unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:23.

Game stats – SOG – Windsor 13 13 18 – 44 Kitchener 9 7 8 – 24 Goal (shots-saves) – Windsor: Onuska (W, 7-2-1) (24-21). Kitchener: Cajan (L, 3-3-0) (43-38). Power play (goals-chances) – Windsor 1-3. Kitcheners 0-3. Referees: Dave Lewis (16) and Sean Reid (26). Linesmen: Will Dykeman (53) and Adam Harris (49). Att.: 4,201 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.


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