For their next trick, the Windsor Spitfires will try to beat the Barrie Colts in the OHL final with only one day off between series.
The Spitfires, for a good many years, will live in fans' imagination as junior hockey's comeback kings. Their 4-1 Game 7 win over Kitchener in the OHL Western Conference final Sunday, with ex-Ranger Scott Timmins scoring a dagger goal 2:37 into the final period to open a two-goal spread, all but made it official that they were going to become just the third OHL team to win a best-of-seven playoff series after falling behind 3-0.
Couple that with the scenic route they took in winning the MasterCard Memorial Cup last May, and that's more than enough to craft a legend.
As previously noted, this had as much of an air of inevitability as such a comeback could. I know it is hockey heresy not to throw around words such as "amazing" and "magic" at this time of year. The better team, like Eric Wellwood's scoring touch prior to his highlight-reel goal that stood as the game-winner, just took its sweet time in emerging.
Down to their last out, Windsor got six goals in four games from Adam Henrique, the New Jersey Devils prospect. Defenceman Mark Cundari, another 19-year-old whom Windsor selected in 2006 in its first draft after Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel's ownership group bought the Spitfires, stepped it up to help bottle up a Kitchener attack which popped in 22 goals in the series' first four games.
Meantime, Windsor settled its goaltending situation. Philipp Grubauer, re-inserted after Troy Passingham's misplay on the winning goal in Game 3 a week ago, wasn't asked to make the extraordinary save, just all of the ordinary ones. (He stopped 26 of 27 shots in Sunday's finale.) Coincidentally, last season Grubauer was the understudy in Belleville to Mike Murphy, who nearly brought the Bulls back from a 3-0 deficit in the league final against those same Rangers. Evidently, some of Murphy's influence rubbed off on his former netminding partner.
Point being, a collection of talent such as Windsor's just needs time to co-ordinate all of Windsor's moving parts, before it could go from sweep to weep to sweet.
The cold comfort for head coach/GM Steve Spott and Kitchener is the Rangers were not expected to get all the way to Game 7 of the conference final. They gained a lot of experience. Kitchener has a nice nucleus returning, including an offence headed by 50-goal scorer Jeff Skinner and a certified No. 1 goalie in Brandon Maxwell, who likely deserved a better outcome in this series.
As for the final, the up-and-down nature of junior hockey makes predicting the final a crapshoot. Barrie, 12-1 in the playoffs, will end up having five days of rest prior to Game 1 on Tuesday, won both regular-season meetings, for whatever that is worth.
One can only imagine how much fatigue will be a factor for the Spitfires after a seven-game series in the physical Western Conference. Barrie has had benefit of added rest between series in the generally less physical East
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. You may contact him at neatesager[at]yahoo[dot]ca.
- Windsor Spitfires
- Barrie Colts