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Tuesday March 29th, 2016

Posted at 7:24am

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Tim Cornett/WindsorSpitfires.com

Another tough loss to swallow. Another one-goal game. Monday night, the Windsor Spitfires fought hard to get their first tying goal, but just couldn’t get the second late in the third. The Kitchener Rangers scored with 1:26 left in the game to put the Spitfires in deep trouble. Kitchener won 2-1 and now commandingly leads the series 3-0.

The two Western Conference teams were off to a great start, opening up with fast-paced hockey. End-to-end, each team had some neat chances. While Windsor’s defense held back Kitchener’s offense for much of the period, the home team’s offensive opportunities almost resulted in a goal. The Spitfires were winning puck battles, and weren’t shy of throwing their weight around. Most of the period remained scoreless, until the visitors struck first in the last-minute. Ryan MacInnis circled around a defenseman before throwing the puck towards the net. Goalie Michael DiPietro attempted to cover it with his glove, but it somehow managed to squeeze under him. As it sat loose near the goaltender, Jeremy Bracco swooped in and put the puck across the line with 35 seconds left. The Spits fell down a goal, trailing 1-0 at the end of the first.

In the second, Windsor had a hard time getting around and past Kitchener. The Spits finally picked it up later on, and even drew a penalty. They couldn’t capitalize as the visitors remained in the lead. Shortly after, Logan Stanley caught up to a Rangers layer who had sprung free for a breakaway. Using his body positioning, Stanley played the puck strongly. Unluckily, he was called for a penalty, and the fans released heavy boos following another questionable call. Windsor would kill it off, but was still down by one after two periods.

One period remained for the Spitfires to pull off some magic. Before the midway point of the third, Windsor came within inches of tying the game. Jalen Chatfield’s shot was stopped by the goalie, but the airborne puck was swatted toward the goal. It flipped a little in the air and then hit the post, bouncing away from the net. The fire was lit for the Spits. Soon enough, Windsor finally broke the Rangers’ defense. Connor Chatham circled the end boards and sent a backhand pass out front. Aaron Luchuk had snuck in and slapped the puck to the back of the net. He and his teammates roared to life as he pumped the air. The crowd erupted when Luchuk scored the equalizer. It was anyone’s game with a little over nine minutes to play. The two teams were weary now, careful as to not make a mistake. At times, they were too careful as they seemed to scramble in their own zone. It happened to Windsor late, and it would be the game-winning goal. The Rangers had the Spits chasing the puck. They couldn’t make a line change, and the visitors knew it. Eventually, Windsor was able to shoot the puck down the ice. On the ensuing rush, however, the Rangers struck gold. MacInnis made a move around a defender to draw the players. He then slid a pass across the top of the crease to Brandon Robinson. He tapped the puck in for the late go-ahead goal. With 1:26 remaining in a crucial game, it was crunch time. The Spits needed a goal to avoid a huge hole. They pulled DiPietro and got their sixth attacker on the ice. They tried for the equalizer, and were so close a few times, but they couldn’t make it happen. Kitchener stopped everything thrown its way and went on to win 2-1 over Windsor.

The Spitfires are now on the brink of elimination as Kitchener leads the series 3-0. Game 4 is Wednesday, March 30th at 7:05pm.

 

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