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Spitfires remain magical with comeback OT win to stay unbeaten against division-leading Firebirds


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The Windsor Spitfires continue to be magical when it comes to the Flint Firebirds this season.

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Despite squandering a three-goal lead, the Spitfires tied it with goalie pulled in the final minute of regulation and claimed a 5-4 victory at 2:45 of overtime with defencman Michael Renwick blasting home the winning goal.

In the first game with capacity limits raised by the provincial government, a crowd of 3,283 took in Friday’s comeback victory by the Spitfires, who have beaten the Firebirds in all five meetings this season.

Windsor’s third-straight win pushed the Spitfires 11 games over .500 for the first time this season and to within six points of the Firebirds, who moved into sole possession of first place in the West Division with the point for getting to extra time.

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who lost 8-5 in London to the Knights on Friday, sit a point back of the Firebirds and five-points up on Windsor, who are 9-1 against those two teams this season. Windsor has four games in hand on Flint and five on the Greyhounds.

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Heading into Friday’s game, only the Sarnia Sting had played fewer games this season than Windsor, which has had a handful of games postponed due to COVID-19. However, the club learned on Friday that the Ontario Hockey League was extending the season an extra two weeks.

“In keeping with the league’s approach of placing the health and well-being of players at the forefront, the regular season will be extended by two weeks to accommodate the rescheduling of games previously postponed due to COVID-19 protocols,” OHL commissioner David Branch said in a release.

Before the announcement, the Spitfires were looking at trying to squeeze in the club’s final 28 games over 44 days, but will now have 59 days to accomplish that goal.

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Prior to the game, the Spitfires honoured the memory of former captain Mickey Renaud on the 14th anniversary of his death from an undetected heart ailment.

It took less than two minutes for current captain Will Cuylle to get the Spitfires rolling against the Firebirds, who were called for an early penalty after firing the puck into the crowd in the opening minute.

Cuylle redirected a Louka Henault point shot. Windsor, which has the No. 2-ranked power play in the league, made it 2-0 on another manpower advantage with the second power-play unit chipping in on a goal by rookie Ethan Miedema.

A nice cross-ice feed by defenceman Andrew Perrott left Wyatt Johnston with an open net and the Spitfires looked to be cruising with a 3-0 lead.

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However, the Firebirds pushed back and Windsor goalie Xavier Medina stopped Flint’s Riley Piercey and Tag Bertuzzi, but Brennan Othmann opted to shoot on a two-on-one to cut the Spitfires’ lead to 3-1 after 40 minutes.

A three-goal blitz in just over eight minutes to start the third period looked to have Flint poised for its first win this season against

Gavin Hayes got the Firebirds to within a goal in the opening minute of the third period and Tag Bertuzzi and Ethan Keppen scored in a span of 59 seconds to put the Firebirds on top.

Windsor had plenty of chances to get back in the lead, but it wasn’t until Medina was pulled that Pasquale Zito put home the tying goal from a scramble in front with just 27 seconds left in regulation.

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Flint goalie Luke Cavalin made a couple of huge saves in the extra session and finished with 35 saves, but could not turn aside Renwick’s winning effort with the veteran defenceman able to step into a shot from the slot after a feed from Johnston.

The Spitfires and Firebirds are right back at it on Saturday at the Dort Financial Center in Michigan with puck drop set for 7 p.m.

jpparker@postmedia.com

twitter.com/winstarparker

Game Summary

Friday Result

Spitfires 5 Firebirds 4 (OT)

Flint 0 1 3 0 – 0

Windsor 2 1 1 0 – 0

First period: 1. Windsor, Cuylle 27 (Henault, Zito) 1:53 (pp), 2. Windsor, Miedema 10 (Abraham, Currie) 14:46 (pp). Penalties: Bertuzzi F (delay of game) :44, Perrott W (cross checking) 10:32, Kuzmin F (high sticking) 13:08, Pitre F (slashing) 18:50.

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Second period: 3. Windsor, Johnston 27 (Perrott, Maggio) 8:35, 4. Flint, Othmann 33 (unassisted) 16:44. Penalty: Henault W (hooking) 13:49.

Third period: 5. Flint, Hayes 11 (Kuzmin) :59, 6. Flint, Bertuzzi 11 (Giroux, Piercey) 7:16, 7. Flint, Keppen 11 (Lombardi) 8:15, 8. Windsor, Zito 15 (Perrott) 19:33. Penalties: None.

Overtime: 9. Windsor, Renwick 6 (Johnston) 2:45. Penalties: None.

Game stats – SOG – Flint 6 9 8 1 – 24 Windsor 15 11 11 3 – 40 Goal (shots-saves) – Flint: Cavallin (L,21-9-1-3) (40-35). Windsor: Medina (W,15-6-0-2) (24-20). Power play (goals-chances) – Flint 0-2. Windsor 2-3. Referees: Stephen Hiff (13) and Ryan Hutchison (20). Linesmen: Ryan Cadwell (82) and Tim Valeriote (51).  Att.: 3,283 at the WFCU Centre.

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