Spitfires’ dominance of West Division elite has carried team to top of conference standings

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The Windsor Spitfires are sitting atop the Western Conference and a good deal of the credit goes to the club’s ability to take care of business against its big dog rivals in the West Division.

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The Spitfires are now riding a season best winning streak of seven games after Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before a crowd of 3,420 at GFL Memorial Gardens. It completed a weekend sweep of the Greyhounds by the Spitfires, who rallied for a 5-3 win on Saturday.

“Everyone’s buying in and it’s amazing,” Spitfires’ head coach Marc Savard said. “You know when you have a good team, and I remember when I was playing, that stuff doesn’t have to be said by the coaches. This was just an amazing weekend.”

After dropping the first meeting of the season against Sault Ste. Marie, the Spitfires closed the regular-season series with seven-straight wins to open a nine-point advantage in the division over the third-place Greyhounds. Coupled with taking 15 of a possible 16 points against the second-place Flint Firebirds, the Spitfires now hold a five-point lead in the conference with eight games left in the regular season.

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“I think, as a team, we understand how big these games are and we’ve been able to bring our best against them,” Johnston said of his team’s performance within the division.

Windsor found a different way to come away with two points from each game. The Spitfires never allowed the Greyhounds to take a lead on Sunday and erased an early two-goal deficit on Saturday.

“I think we’ve shown, throughout the season, that we’re able to win, no matter the circumstances,” Johnston said. “Right now, we have a lot of confidence in ourselves as a group and have the confidence to keep playing as a group to get the win.”

It’s an impressive feat considering the club was playing its sixth game in nine days on Sunday and 11th game in the last 18 days.

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“We’ve played so much hockey and (the Greyhounds) had a week off,” Savard said. “We were hanging on at the end, let’s be honest, but everyone chipped in.”

Two of the club’s hottest scorers got the club an early 2-0 lead in the first period on Sunday. D’Amico scored his first of two in the game just 17 seconds into the match. He has scored in every game of Windsor’s seven-game winning streak and has 11 goals during that stretch.

“My linemates have been great,” D’Amico, who plays with Matthew Maggio and rookie Ryan Abraham. “The puck seems to be finding my stick. I have a shot mentality and it just seems they’re going in for me.”

Johnston followed with his first of two in the game and became the first Spitfire since Christian Fischer, in 2015-16, to hit 40 goals.

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Bryce McConnell-Barker got the Greyhounds to with 2-1 after 20 minutes, but D’Amico and Oliver Peer sandwich goals around one by Sault Ste. Marie’s Kalvyn Watson to make it 4-2 win after 40 minutes.

“We are a hard team to play against,” D’Amico said. “It’s fun to play in every game because we know everyone will compete.”

Jack Thompson made it a one-goal game again before Johnston scored the eventual game winner on a breakaway to become the first Spitfire to hit 41 goals since Kerby Rachel in 2011-12.

While the Greyhounds had a chance to tie both games with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, D’Amico said there was no panic for the Spitfires.

“No, we knew we had to just close it out and do what it takes,” D’Amico said. “Blocking shots and getting the puck out of our zone.”

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On Saturday, captain Will Cuylle notched his fourth career hat-trick as Windsor erased an early two-goal deficit.

D’Amico and Johnston, who also had two assists, each added single goals. Johnston, who leads the OHL in scoring with 112 points, finished with 22 points in eight games against the Greyhounds. Rory Kerins, with a pair, and Ryan O’Rourke countered for the Greyhounds.

“He’s the best player in the OHL,” Savard said of Johnston. “He’s proven it night in and night out The consistency is fantastic.”

Savard was also able to get both of his goaltenders work. Matt Onuska made 23 saves on Sunday to improve to 15-3-1-1 since joining the Spitfires while Xavier Medina made 15 saves on Saturday for his first win in net since Feb. 18.

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“That’s big to get both guys involved and we’re going to have to do that again with a couple of three (games) in three (days scheduled),” Savard said.

The Spitfires are off until Thursday when the club plays the Sarnia Sting at the WFCU Centre. Game time is 7:30 pm

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Game Summary

Sunday Result

Spitfires 5 Greyhounds 4

Windsor 2 2 1 – 5

Sault Ste. Marie 1 1 2 – 4

Firstperiod: 1. Windsor, D’Amico 25 (Abraham, Ribau) :17, 2. Windsor, Johnston 40 (Christopoulos, DeAngelis) 7:58, 3. Sault Ste. Marie, McConnell-Barker 20 (Watson, Kudryavtsev) 11:08 (pp). Penalties: Christopoulos W (slashing), Calisti S (roughing) 5:18, Ribau W (tripping) 9:13, Cuylle W (tripping) 14:01, Thompson S (boarding) 19:44.

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Secondperiod: 4. Windsor, D’Amico 26 (Maillet, Henault) 2:28 (sh), 5. Sault Ste. Marie, Watson 13 (Calisti, Savard) 3:18 (pp), 6. Windsor, Peer 3 (Miedema, Sobolev) 7:15. Penalties: Abraham W (high sticking) 1:31, O’Rourke S (slashing) 9:42, Ribau W (blindsiding) 13:44, Maggio W (slashing) 16:35.

Third period: 7. Sault Ste. Marie, Thompson 16 (unassisted) 2:11, 8. Windsor, Johnston 41 (unassisted) 10:03, 9. Sault Ste. Marie, Kartye 37 (Thompson, Calisti) 15:19 (sh). Penalties: McMullen S (tripping) 2:24, Sobolev W (cross checking) 5:26, Kerins S (holding the stick) 5:29, O’Rourke S (holding) 11:28, O’Rourke S (slew foot major, game misconduct) 15:19, Renwick W (tripping), Abraham W (roughing), Cloutier S (roughing) 17:59.

Game stats – SOG – Windsor 9 8 9 – 26 Sault Ste. Marie 10 12 5 – 27 Goal (shots-saves) – Windsor: Onuska (W,15-5-1-1) (27-23). Sault Ste. Marie: Tynan (L,19-19-6-1) (26-21). Power play (goals-chances) – Windsor 0-6. Sault Ste. Marie 2-7. Referees: Brandon Biggers (56) and Ryan Jenken (36). Linesmen: Blake Beer (67) and Marcus Policicchio (54). Att.: 3,420 at GFL Memorial Gardens.


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