The Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Western Conference Final is going the distance. The top-seeded Windsor Spitfires are heading home for Game 7 after a dramatic 3-2 win over the third-seeded Flint Firebirds in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
This series has been everything a hockey fan could love. From multi-goal comebacks to strong goaltending, offensive outbursts to 90s-style Windsor Arena hockey, it’s lived up to all of the pre-series hype. Through six games, the teams have gone toe-to-toe with neither backing down. Given they were just six points apart (Spitfires led 95-89) in the regular season, it should come as no surprise. However, the Firebirds took a big win in Game 5 at the WFCU Centre, forcing the favourites to give it everything in a do-or-die Game 6.
Let’s get into it…
Spitfires Outlast Firebirds in Overtime
Coming into Game 6, the Firebirds knew they needed a strong start. In every game but Game 1, they had given up a multi-goal lead and were forced to come back. After Game 5, captain Brennan Othmann said that couldn’t continue.
The teams came out to an electric atmosphere at the Dort Financial Center in Flint and the home side gave them something to cheer about. Ethan Keppen buried a shot past Spitfires’ goaltender Xavier Medina to give the Firebirds the early 1-0 lead. However, that momentum lasted just 12 seconds as Spitfires’ veteran Daniel D’Amico beat goaltender Luke Cavallin for the 1-1 draw.
While the Spitfires were relentless on Cavallin, recording at least 13 shots in every period, he stood tall. His club also took advantage of their opportunities. In the second period, veteran Riley Piercey capitalized on the power play for a 2-1 Firebirds lead.
In previous games, the Firebirds used a third-period trap at their blue line to stop the Spitfires’ offence. It worked well, until tonight. Head coach Marc Savard’s persistent plan paid off in the third as D’Amico buried his second of the night making it 2-2 with 10 minutes left.
Despite the Spitfires outshooting the Firebirds 44-28, overtime was in order. In the extra frame, the visitors continued to put everything possible on Cavallin. With under two minutes left, defenceman Andrew Perrott skated around two Firebirds in their own zone and beat him high glove for the dramatic 3-2 win.
After the game, Savard said the plan worked.
“We stuck with the game plan,” he said. “We never cheated the game. At some point, when you play the right way, you actually get rewarded. You tell your players this every day. Sometimes they believe and sometimes they don’t. They believed tonight.”
Game 6 Scoring Summary
Flint – Ethan Keppen (7) from Brennan Othmann and Dmitry Kuzmin (power play) – 3:44
Windsor – Daniel D’Amico (5) from Jacob Maillet and Michael Renwick – 3:56
Flint – Riley Piercey (3) from Zacharie Giroux and Gavin Hayes (power play) – 11:06
Windsor – Daniel D’Amico (6) from Alex Christopoulos – 9:22
Windsor – Andrew Perrott (6) from Will Cuylle – 18:42
Game 7 Heads to WFCU Centre
This is what you play for. After all of the chaotic weekends and extra efforts; it’s come down to Game 7 of the Conference Final. After the 2022 OHL Trade Deadline, the Spitfires came together and gelled at the perfect time. They wanted the conference title so a potential Game 7 could be in front of their fans.
“We’re going back home to our crowd,” Savard said. “This is what we battled for all season. This is why we picked up guys like (Perrott) – to win the West. We’re going home to our crowd. They’ve been fantastic all season and I know they’re going to be here to support us. It feels great but the job’s not done yet. It’s first to four (wins). I said that when we lost and I’m going say it when we win.”
It’s not going to be easy. While the Spitfires won 25-of-34 at home during the regular season, the Firebirds have won two-of-three games on the road this series and no team has won two games in a row. The Spitfires will need a complete game but Perrott said this is what you live for.
“We’ve been training for this all year,” Perrott said. “The facilities we have and the game plan we layout off the ice, taking care of our bodies, and playing a rigorous 68-game schedule, we’ve prepared for situations like this… For us, there’s no better position. These are the type of moments, as a player, you live for.”
Keppen said the Firebirds need a short-term memory.
“I wish we had won at home for our crowd, but we’ve come this far,” he said. “We’re a good road team. We have to get there tomorrow, forget about it, short-term memory … Who wants it more?”
Game 7 is set for Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
A nearly life-long resident of Windsor, ON, I graduated from St. Clair College (Journalism) and University of Windsor (Communications) and have attended Windsor Spitfires’ (and OHL) games for 30-years. My areas include multimedia journalism and photography.