Savard once again turns to Onuska as battle for Spitfires’ net heats up


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Once again, Matt Onuska drew the starting assignment in goal for the Windsor Spitfires on Thursday against the Kitchener Rangers.

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While Xavier Medina has long been considered Windsor’s clear No. 1 choice in goal, Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard says he’s comfortable with either goalie getting the start and wouldn’t mind seeing Onuska push for more time.

That was not a realistic expectation earlier in the season with 17-year-old Kyle Downey just breaking into the league, but Savard thinks things might be a little different with Onuska on board.

“Well, you want competition and we’ve got it now,” Savard said.

When Medina went down with an ankle injury earlier this season, the Spitfires turned to Downey and Matt Tovell, who combined to post a 7-5-2-0 record, but both had a goals-against average over four and a save percentage under .860.

After coming over in a trade with London, the 19-year-old Onuska seems to have found his jogging. He entered Thursday’s game 3-1-0-1 in his last five games with a 2.75 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.

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With both goalies healthy, Savard turned to Onuska for a third-straight game on Thursday. It’s just the second time Onuska has started three-straight games for the Spitfires with the other coming when Medina was sidelined by COVID-19.

“He’s waited patiently,” Savard said of Onuska. “X (Medina) was able to beat Flint in overtime (on Friday), but I thought you had to reward good play.

“(Onuska) was excellent in Flint (in a shootout loss). We got a point because we played well, but he saved us a couple times on breakaways.”

Medina has shown time and again he can dominate a game. Despite being sidelined on three occasions this season, the former third-round pick boasts a 15-6-0-2 record. He came into Thursday’s game with the league’s sixth-best, goals-against average at 2.88, but his .897 save percentage is 15th in the league.

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Savard’s goal is to make every player earn his playing time and that includes net.

“It’s just, on any team, you’ve got a No. 1 center and you hope the No. 2 center’s pushing him for his job,” Savard said. “When you get in a situation like that, it makes everybody better.”

For Savard, it was a tougher decision to make earlier in the season, but one he has far more comfort with now that Onuska has settled in.

“X, when he gets in there, has to be at his best because he knows the other guy’s pushing,” Savard said. “We have a great situation there.”

It could also be helpful for the Spitfires down the stretch with a heavier schedule that will require the club to lean on both players before ultimately deciding on a No. 1 goalie for the playoffs.

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“We’re going to settle on somebody, but right now we have a healthy competition,” Savard said. “So, we’re just going to keep going with whoever is hot and continue to roll that way.”

spit bits

Spitfires’ captain Will Cuylle served the first game of a three-game suspension on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Cuylle was handed a boarding major late in Monday’s win against the Saginaw Spirit that drew a five-minute major and game misconduct.

OHL officials reviewed the hit and handed the down the suspension, which will keep Cuylle was tied with Wyatt Johnston, going into Thursday’s game, for the team lead in goals with 28. He is eligible to return to the lineup on March 4. in London .

While Cuylle sat on Thursday, the Spitfires did get forward Matthew Maggio back into the lineup after a one-game absence due to an upper-body injury. Pasquale Zito, who filled in on the top line when Maggio was out, simply moved over to the left side on the top line with Maggio and Johnston.

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