Spitfires move to top of standings in Western Conference with 7-5 win over Rangers


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The Windsor Spitfires’ long climb up the Western Conference standings finally put the team at the top on Tuesday.

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Matthew Maggio snapped a tie with his second goal of the game with just over four minutes left in regulation and Daniel D’Amico added his second goal, into an empty net, to give the Spitfires a 7-5 win over the Kitchener Rangers before 3,269 at the WFCU Centre.

It was Windsor’s fourth win in a row and pushed the Spitfires past the Flint Firebirds and into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference by a single point over the Flint Firebirds. Windsor still holds a game in hand on Flint and has 11 games left in the regular season.

“That was the goal entire year in the back of our minds,” said Maggio, whose team officially clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference with the win. “We want to put ourselves in the position for home-ice advantage in the playoffs.”

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The Spitfires have roared to the top of the conference by playing .757 hockey (27-8-1-1) hockey over its last 47 games after treading water through the opening 20 games of the season with a .500 record (at 8- 8-2-2).

“Early on, it was a learning process for all of us,” Spitfires’ first-year head coach Marc Savard said. “We obviously had some tough nights and growing pains (early) and some adversity. I knew we’d break out.”

Tuesday’s win was no easy feat for the club against a Kitchener club that had won four of the previous six meetings with Windsor this season despite sitting tied for seventh overall in the conference.

“They’re a good team,” Maggio said of the Rangers. “They’re really good in transition and a high-powered offence. You’ll have teams that are tough to play and that’s one, but a win’s a win.”

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Windsor has been able to get the jump on the opposition in recent games and Alex Christopoulos continued that streak as he got loose in the slot and scored to put the Spitfires on the board first for the fifth game in a row.

Adam Zidlicky got the Rangers even just over a minute later, but the Spitfires took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission when defenseman Michael Renwick shot wide, but Rangers’ goalie Pavel Cajan, in an attempt to keep it from popping back out in front, put it past himself and in.

Twice the Spitfires would stretch the lead to two goals in the second period only to see the Rangers respond to keep it a one-goal game after 40 minutes.

Maggio, who was named OHL player of the week on Monday, scored on a breakaway just 49 seconds into the second period.

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Navrin Mutteer tipped a shot past Windsor goal Matt Onuska to make it a 3-2 game. Kitchener looked to have the equalizer just 11 seconds later, but officials quickly ruled no goal. The Rangers challenged the goaltender interference call on the play, but it stood to keep Windsor in front.

The Spitfires’ second power-play unit responded with a D’Amico goal to put Windsor up 4-2, but defenseman Jacob LeBlanc’s point shot beat a screened Onus to pull the Rangers to within 4-3.

Renwick gave Windsor a two-goal lead for the third time in the game, but the Rangers battled back to tie the game at 5-5 on goals by Mitchell Martin and Joseph Serpa midway through the third period.

That set the stage for Maggio’s winner as Savard reunited his big line with Will Cuylle and OHL scoring Wyatt Johnston.

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D’Amico sealed it with his seventh goal in four games for the Spitfires, who have put up 26 goals during the four-game winning streak.

“I think we faced some adversity and that helped us overcome some things,” Renwick said. “Now, it’s about staying on top. Everyone wants to take down the top team and nothing is easy in this league.”

The Spitfires are back in action on Thursday when the Saginaw Spirit comes to the WFCU Centre. Game time is 7:30 pm

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Game Summary

Monday Result

Spitfires 7 Rangers 5

Kitchener 1 2 2 – 5

Windsor 2 2 3 – 7

Firstperiod: 1. Windsor, Christopoulos 11 (Cuylle, Johnston) 5:16, 2. Kitchener, Zidlicky 3 (Rehkopf, Harper) 6:49, 3. Windsor, Renwick 8 (unassisted) 7:06. Penalties: Christopoulos W (interference) 11:38, Hollett K (tripping) 15:01.

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Secondperiod: 4. Windsor, Maggio 32 (Henault, Cuylle) : 49, 5. Kitchener, Mutter 10 (Nolet, Misaljevic) 2:46, 6. Windsor, D’Amico 21 (Miedema, Abraham) 10:01 (pp), 7 Kitchener, LeBlanc 4 (Misaljevic, Mercer) 13:50. Penalties: Motew K (hooking) 8:27, Ribau W (interference) 10:36, Christopoulos W (tripping) 17:27.

Third period: 8. Windsor, Renwick 9 (Maggio) 3:51, 9. Kitchener, Martin 15 (Serpa, LeBlanc) 4:18, 10. Kitchener, Serpa 17 (unassisted) 9:56, 11. Windsor, Maggio 33 (Johnston, Sobolev) 15:50, 12. Windsor, D’Amico 22 (Henault) 18:16 (en). Penalties: Rehkopf K (high sticking) 11:20, Martin K (slashing), Renwick W (slashing) 18:30.

Game stats – SOG – Kitchener 10 12 12-34 Windsor 10 9 12-31 Goal (shots-saves) – Kitchener: Cajan (L,18-15-1-2) (30-24). Windsor: Onuska (W, 13-5-1-1) (31-26). Power play (goals-chances) – Kitcheners 0-3. Windsor 1-3. Referees: Ryan Jenken (36) and Ben Wilson (32). Linesmen: Kevin Hastings (61) and Geoff Rutherford (62). Att.: 3,269 at the WFCU Center.

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