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Thursday March 31st, 2016

Posted at 7:27am

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Tim Cornett/WindsorSpitfires.com

Call it what you may, but the Windsor Spitfires are alive and flying. In a do or die situation, trailing by two goals was an obstacle. Brendan Lemieux, returning from his suspension, made a monumental impact. The Spits star scored three goals in a span of 2:01 for his team. In overtime, it was Bradley Latour who kept the Spitfires in the series with a statement goal. He and his team defeated the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 Wednesday night.

Seconds after the opening faceoff, the engines were buzzing as a Windsor player rang the puck off the post. On the returning rush, Kitchener did the same. On a defensive play, however, the Spits took a penalty. The first shift of the game was exciting, but the second wouldn’t be, not for Windsor. A bit over a minute in, Adam Mascherin got behind the defense and directed a pass into the net. It was a deflating goal, but the Spits tried to fight it off. Unfortunately, they were having a trouble in their own zone. As the Rangers fought, the Spitfires were causing turnovers. Eventually, the visitors grabbed a 2-0 lead. Mason Kohn powered his way up the ice and through defenders. On a wraparound attempt, the puck slid back to the slot. From there, Mascherin blasted a slapshot into the back of the net for the late goal. Kitchener was up 2-0 after the first period.

Things wouldn’t improve for the Spits early in the second period. The same problems from the first carried into the middle frame. They couldn’t get anything going, and that was frustrating. Flustered enough, Brendan Lemieux, fresh off his two-game suspension from earlier in the series, took a shot toward the net following the whistle. Some Rangers didn’t take too kindly a Lemieux was jumped by a pair of them. He did receive an unsportsmanlike penalty, while Jake Henderson was penalized with a 5-minute major for checking to the head, and ejected from the game. With more ice, neither team could come up with a goal. When Lemieux stepped back onto the ice, though, the game heated up. First, his wrist-shot rebounded off the post, against the goalie, and then slowly across the line. Down by a goal, there was still some life. Less than a minute and a half later, he fired a rocket of a one-timer from the circle that made its way straight in. Just 35 seconds after that, he would score his third straight goal. Exactly like his second, he blasted a one-timer from the top of the circle. With a huge smile on his face, he cheered with his team. The crowd inside the WFCU Centre was deafening. Lemieux scored his third goal in just over two minutes – an incredible natural hat trick. By the end of the period, Windsor was in complete control. The team outshot Kitchener 13-1 in the period, and led 3-2 after two periods.

The Rangers didn’t sit back. They did what they did all night. They dominated the Windsor zone and maintained excellent puck possession. Hayden McCool managed to get a hold of the puck, however. He flipped it up the ice perfectly to Bradley Latour, who burst in on a breakaway. He made a move, and the goaltender partially stopped it, but not enough. The puck crossed the line as the Spitfires gained a two-goal advantage. All seemed well for Windsor, until the late stages of the period. The Spits were running out of gas. With a little over five minutes to go, David Miller shot a rebound into an open net. Less than two minutes later, the Rangers tied the game. Gustaf Franzen crept in and stuffed the puck under Michael DiPietro. It made its way across the goal line and evened the game at four. The score remained there until the end of the period, as the teams prepped for an intense overtime.

It didn’t look good for Windsor early in the extra period, as the Spits were called for a penalty. There was a sigh of relief from the entire crowd when the Spitfires killed it off. They weren’t out of the woods just yet, however. Kitchener nearly ended the game moments later, but DiPietro’s remarkable, timely save kept his team’s hopes alive. Back at the other end, under Windsor pressure, the Rangers took a penalty of their own. And then, the unbelievable happened. The Spitfires set up on the powerplay. From the corner, it was Logan Brown with the puck. He slid it to Christian Fischer, standing right beside the net. A fast pass to Bradley Latour at the bottom of the circle. A quick one-timer to the far side of the net. And the building exploded. The players on the ice roared in victory as the team cleared the bench to celebrate. Windsor hung on to fight another day, beating Kitchener 5-4 in overtime.

Game 5 takes place Friday, April 1st in Kitchener. Should the Spitfires win, Game 6 will be Sunday, April 3rd at 2:05pm.

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