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Windsor Spitfires Surprise in 2017 Memorial Cup Opener

By Mike Beasley on May 20, 2017

The underdog Spitfires survive a late game push by the favourite Sea Dogs to take the first game of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup. (Aaron Bell/CHL images)

Spitfires 3    Sea Dogs 2

Judging from the Windsor Spitfires performance on opening night of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, their 44 day layoff from the CHL postseason suited them just fine

On April 4, Windsor was eliminated from the OHL playoffs after losing in seven games to the London Knights.

Six weeks later, after countless hours of intense conditioning and high tempo practices the Spitfires were rewarded for their hard work with a 3-2 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL champs) in the opener of the CHL championship.  

This year’s event marks the 99th edition and second occasion that the City of Windsor hosts the MasterCard Memorial Cup.

In 1981, the Cornwall Royals from the QMJHL won the title that year. This time around, the Spitfires look to be making the most of the opportunity in front of their hometown fans at the WFCU Centre.

Windsor scored a goal in each period and held a 3-0 lead with less than five minutes to play in regulation before Saint John tried to mount a comeback.

The Spits showed tremendous character in holding off the Sea Dogs for the win and registered their first victory since March 30. 

Jeremiah Addison opened the scoring for Windsor at 15:53 of the first period with a power play marker to put his team up 1-0.

Teammate Jeremy Bracco found Addison with a crisp tape to tape pass as the Spitfires assistant captain was skating into the slot area. Addison made no mistake beating Sea Dogs netminder Callum Booth with a quick shot to his stick side.

Bracco doubled the Spitfires’ lead with less than two minutes to play in the middle frame after electing to shot on a two on one break.
Seconds before, Saint John squandered a legitimate scoring opportunity with one too many passes in front of Spitfires’ goalkeeper, Michael DiPietro.

Bracco made them pay for the gaff, scoring on his own rebound with a carefully aimed shot that Booth couldn’t handle.

The offensive-minded forward was acquired by Windsor from the Kitchener Rangers at this year’s trade deadline for his knack of finding the back of the net.

In Windsor’s first 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup game, that move paid huge dividends for the Spitfires.

Saint John looked sluggish and had trouble mounting any kind of attack or sustained pressure through 40 minutes of play, registering only 13 shots on goal.

Aaron Luchuk then added to Saint John’s misery when he tipped home a Mikhail Sergachev point shot to give the Spitfires a comfortable 3-0 lead with 15:12 to play in regulation.

But this is junior hockey and no lead is ever safe.

Saint John finally got their sea legs with a power play goal by Nathan Noel with less than five minutes to play.

The marker gave Saint John some momentum which produced another tally 24 seconds later by Thomas Chabot to reduce Windsor’s lead to one goal 3-2.

With Booth out of the net, Saint John pushed for the equalizer and almost accomplished the feat when Sea Dogs F Matthew Highmore had the tying goal on his stick with nothing but a wide open cage staring him in the face.

But he failed to capitalize on the golden opportunity with the Spitfires breathing a collective sigh of relief and hung on for the victory.

Windsor outshot Saint John 23-22 and showed why they were the OHL’s top penalty killing team during the regular season as they held Saint John, the QMJHL’s top power play to one goal on five chances.

The Spitfire scored once in four attempts with the man advantage.

Cup News & Notes:

On Day 2 of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, the Erie Otters (OHL) and Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) open their tournament

The Windsor Spitfires do not have history on their side. Eight of the last nine Memorial Cup champions won their respective league titles. 

The only exception came in 2012 when the host Shawinigan Cataractes won the CHL championship trophy after bowing out in their league playoffs.

Friday night’s matchup featured the Sea Dogs F Joe Veleno and Spitfires D Sean Day. Both players were given “Exceptional Player Status” prior to their arrival in the CHL.

Windsor won back-to-back MasterCard Memorial Cups in 2009 (Rimouski) and 2010 (Brandon).

Saint John won their only national championship in 2011 (Mississauga). The Sea Dogs last Cup appearance was in 2012 (Shawinigan).

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By Mike Beasley| May 20, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior|Events

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