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Monday January 21st, 2013

Posted at 8:12am

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It could be called the “Comeback of the Year” for the Windsor Spitfires. After allowing two shorthanded goals and trailing for most of the game, the team found a way to fight back, and skate away with the victory. They flew past the Western Conference’s 2nd place Sarnia Sting as Windsor won a wild one by a score of 5-4 Sunday afternoon, at the WFCU Centre.

Windsor capped off a big weekend by winning their fourth game in a row. Friday night, the Spitfires were up in London to take on the Best in the West. They made quick work of the Knights after taking that game 5-2. Heading into Sunday’s game against Sarnia, momentum was surely on their side.

And the Sting stopped it. They didn’t waste any time showing Windsor why they were 2nd in the West – 4th in the league. A little over a minute and a half into the opening frame, Davis Brown received a pass out front from Daniel Nikandrov, and beat Jaroslav Pavelka. Not long after, the Sting stars combined for a shorthanded goal. Pavelka misplayed the puck behind his net and it was picked up by Charles Sarault. He sent a cross-ice pass to Reid Boucher for the easy one-timer. It seemed like that was what Windsor’s afternoon would be. However, Alex Aleardi brought some life back to his team. As his line broke into the zone, Kerby Rychel dropped a pass for Alexander Khokhlachev. His slap-shot resulted in a big rebound, and Aleardi capitalized. Sarnia came close again but Pavelka made an important glove save near the end of the period. Down 2-1 after the first 20 minutes, Windsor held the 19-17 edge in shots.

Early in the second, the Spits tried to tie things up. They came within inches of a 2-2 game after Khokhlachev hit the post. Unfortunately, Sarnia extended their lead and sank Windsor’s energy. For the second time in the game, the Sting forwards struck for a shorthanded goal. Pavelka made the initial save on Reid Boucher, but Spits defenseman Trevor Murphy’s motion carried him into his goaltender, putting him out of position. Sarault snuck in with a little backhand into the net, as Aleardi was unable to stop the puck. Rychel narrowed the gap a little later though. He crossed the line and dished the puck to Khokhlachev, who sent it back. Rychel tried unsuccessfully to shoot short-side, picked up his own rebound, and kept going for the wrap-around goal. Another period ended with the Spitfires only down by one. Windsor outshot Sarnia 20-7 in the period but trailed 3-2.

Once again, Sarnia got an early goal to deflate Windsor’s hopes. Just a minute in, Nickolas Latta slid the puck behind Pavelka and through the crease. Adam Bateman was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. His skate accidentally brought the puck into the Spits net. Sarnia regained their two-goal lead. But, Windsor was not out yet. As time went on, the Spitfires fueled their tanks and fired up their engines. The comeback began nearly two minutes later after the puck was stolen by Khokhlachev for a short 2-on-1. A pass to Aleardi, a return pass to Khokhlachev – who had the net to himself – and the Spits had skated closer to tying the game.

They weren’t done there. Much like Sarnia’s second goal, the Spits scored an easy one-timer from in-close. Nick Ebert found Brady Vail close to the net, and he slid a pass across to Josh Ho-sang. After beating goalie J.P. Anderson, the game was now tied with lots of time remaining.

36 seconds later, the WFCU Centre erupted. Patrick Sieloff flipped a little pass to Remy Giftopoulos. Giftopoulos winded up and fired a shot over Anderson, and in. The Spitfires scored three goals in a span of 4:38. And for the first time in the game, they had the lead: 5-4 with 11:51 left.

The nearly sold out crowd of 6383 cheering fans had their hearts racing as the excitement raved around the arena.

The Spitfires took a penalty late in the period, with only five minutes to play. However, the team was committed to stopping the Sting. Throughout the Sarnia power-play, Windsor kept blocking shots. Vail and Sieloff both took hard shots in the ankle but shook them off and kept defending. Ebert blocked another with his back after diving in front of the puck. The pressure brought by the Sting was intense, but the Spits held together. And they held on for the win. Windsor defeated Sarnia in a 5-4 thrilling comeback.

“We’re doing well; we’re just trying to play every game like it’s a playoff game,” said Kerby Rychel after the victory. “We dug ourselves in a bit of a hole at the start of the season, so hopefully we can just keep winning games and keep climbing up the standings. I think as long as we’re working hard, things are going to be good.”

The Windsor Spitfires face the Plymouth Whalers this Thursday, January 24th at the WFCU Centre. The game will be Aleardi’s first against his former team.

“I just take it just like every other game: go in there and think of walking away with two points. It should be a funny but fun game.”

Puck drop is at 7:05pm.

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