BARRIE, ONT. – Taylor Hall likes his macaroni and cheese, even when it’s frozen.
It was his overtime goal – 2:35 into the extra frame – that gave the Windsor Spitfires a 4-3 victory over the host Barrie Colts in Game 1 of the OHL championship series and sent boxes of no-name brand pasta and cheese raining down onto the ice.
“I don’t know why all those people were throwing away some good food,” Hall said. “I was kind of tempted to take a couple boxes for myself and eat them at my billet house.”
The Colts gave the boxes to their 4,296 fans as noisemakers to be donated at the end of the game to a local food bank. But once Barrie defenceman Chris Wiggin took a hooking penalty just over two minutes into overtime, the Mac started looking more like a missile. Hall got the puck at the top of the faceoff circle, thanks to a nice pass from defencemen Ryan Ellis, and fired a rocket that beat Barrie goalie Mavric Parks.
“I knew their guys were forcing [Ellis] and I could get into a soft spot,” Hall said. “Fortunately I got a lot on the shot and I don’t think [Parks] saw it at all.”
The victory gave the Spitfires a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and more fodder to cement Windsor’s legacy as junior hockey’s comeback kids after once again rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the first period and again late in third. This, of course, after coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate the Kitchener Rangers in Game 7 of the Western Conference final.
“That’s just our mentality, we don’t go away,” said Windsor defenceman Mark Cunadari. “We’re going to play an in-your-face style of game, nobody is going to back down or quit. There’s just no getting rid of us.”
It was his own no quit play that allowed the Spitfires to head into overtime in the first place. With Windsor trailing 3-2 late in the third period, forward Eric Wellwood tried a pass to Cundari, but it took a fortunate bounce and landed at Barrie defenceman Alex Pietrangelo’s skates. But Pietrangelo, couldn’t clear the zone, allowing Cundari to steal the puck and fire it quickly through traffic to tie the game with 3:16 remaining in the third period.
“I kind of blacked out,” said Cundari, trying to recall his goal amid all the excitement.
Adam Henrique and Ellis also scored for the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champions who will stay in Barrie for Game 2 of the series on Thursday night.
Matt Kennedy opened the scoring at the 13:11 mark of the first period with his eighth goal of the playoffs. Kyle Clifford and Darren Archibald also scored for Barrie, the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League, while Parks stopped 44 shots.
Barrie has yet to face a team that can generate offence like the Spitfires, instead, they’ve faced some of the best defensive teams with the fewest goals allowed in the OHL.
“Everybody wants to knock the Eastern Conference,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “We haven’t played an explosive offensive team but we’ve played two of the best defensive teams in the league with Mississauga and Brampton, so we’re battle ready.”
And speaking of battles, prior to the start of the series, there was a lot of ink spilled detailing the bad blood between the two teams as a result of a hit Windsor’s Zack Kassian put on Barrie forward Matt Kennedy on Jan. 14. On Tuesday night the pair once again skated on the same ice after Kassian was suspended 20 games for the unrelenting shoulder that left Kennedy concussed and cut.
In their last regular season meeting on Feb. 20, the Spitfires and Colts combined for a total 52 minutes in penalties (26 combined infractions), a far cry from the 20 handed out in Game 1, with only two roughing minors issued to each team.
“I think as the series goes on more bad blood will stir and eventually it’ll get much more heated,” Cundari said.