by Brett Hedges
The Lance – Sports Editor
With a number of the Windsor Spitfires top players away at National Hockey League training camps, a door of opportunity opened up for many of head coach Rocky Thompson’s younger players in their Ontario Hockey League regular season debut.
The Spitfires battled penalty troubles early against the Erie Otters but bounced back to earn a 4-1 victory at the WFCU Centre, Sept. 22. Four different Spitfires tallied singles with goaltender Mike DiPietro stopping 17 shots for the victory in net.
“There was a lot of coaching on the bench for the first game, more than you would like to be but we’re definitely proud of our guys,” said Thompson. “Without a doubt, we were short staffed. We had three players fly in today and they were able to produce. We were pretty stingy without the puck which was good. I thought Mikey battled and came up big when he needed to as the game progressed, which was nice especially late in the game. “
After Windsor’s third penalty of the first period led to a power play goal from Erie’s Shaun Bily, the Spitfires would settle down defensively before Cole Carter tied the game with a short-handed goal on a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Otter’s goalie Jake Lawr.
Windsor then went on to build a 3-1 lead with a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the opening frame. Spitfires’ 6’3” rookie winger Cole Purboo registered his first career OHL goal at the 18:25 mark before Aaron Luchuk scored less than one minute later on a rebound.
“Our special teams were good, I wish we hadn’t taken so many careless penalties but it gave us a lot of practice on the penalty kills,” Thompson said. “All in all, it’s good when you win 4-1 and you only give up 18 shots, so I’m definitely pleased with that part of our game for sure.”
After a scoreless second period, Windsor’s Hayden McCool rounded out the scoring with just over three minutes remaining in the third period.
Luchuk, a 19 yeard old center who registered 53 points for Windsor last season and led the team with 27 goals, said it was a good character win for the hosts of the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup.
“The guys really shut it down the last two periods and we didn’t give them much once we got that lead,” said Luchuk. “There are some high expectations for us this year so we don’t have any excuses (regardless of how many players are out), we just need to go out there and do our jobs. The young guys did really and we left with the ‘W’.”
The Spitfires now travel to Sault Ste. Marie for a battle with the Soo Greyhounds at Essar Arena Sept. 23. Puck-drop is 7 p.m.