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WITH PHOTOS: Spitfires Outlast Spirit In Holiday Thriller

Friday December 18th, 2015, 6:28am


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Fresh off of two straight wins, the Windsor Spitfires were looking to keep their new win streak alive. A busy third period had both teams guessing, but when it came down to it, the Spits made sure to come out on top. Brendan Lemieux scored two and a half minutes into overtime to give Windsor a 7-6 victory over the Saginaw Spirit in a Thursday night thriller at the WFCU Centre.

Michael DiPietro got the start once more for the Spits, but the game didn’t go his way in the beginning. The young goaltender was fooled by a one-timer in the slot from Artem Artemov. Windsor went down early, but it wouldn’t stop there. Despite the offense pulling off steals and forcing turnovers, they counted pull together for a goal. Instead, the visiting Spirit conjured up another to go up by a pair. Similar to the first, a Saginaw player found his teammate skating into the middle. Kirill Maksimov made no mistake of putting the puck in. With a period down, Windsor was in a 2-0 hole.

A rough first period was not followed by a rough second. The Spitfires absolutely came to life, scoring twice to even the score. First, Daniel Beaudoin was skating hard to the net when he was sent a pass. The forward tipped the puck past Evan Cormier and in. Later, on a 5-on-3, Bradley Latour redirected a shot in with his knee. It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it got the job done. Seconds later, the Spits came close on the same powerplay. However, Cormier stood tall and made a great save; Brendan Lemieux rang the rebound off the crossbar. Less than two minutes remained when Saginaw would regain momentum and drain the crowd.

To set up the goal, Cristiano DiGiacinto was checked into the visiting net and called for interference. Now on the powerplay, the Spirit worked and got what they were looking for. A centering pass bounced off of Connor Brown’s skate, and past DiPietro. Saginaw had a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

The tempo picked up pretty quickly in the final frame. Just over two minutes in, the Spits tied the game. Hayden McCool slipped a rebound past Cormier to even the score. Just 44 seconds later, Windsor struck again. Gabriel Vilardi’s magic hands were too quick for Cormier with a wrap-around goal to give Windsor the lead. Again, in fast fashion, the Spitfires scored just seconds later. Brendan Lemieux continued his hot streak. He made a slick forehand-backhand move that handily beat Cormier. Not to be outdone, the Spirit would retaliate a minute and a half later. From the left faceoff dot, Artem Artemov fired a shot over DiPietro’s glove for his second of the game. Less than a minute later, Windsor lit the red light for a sixth time. Thanks to DiGiacinto’s pass – an assist resulting in his 100th OHL point – Aaron Luchuk broke in on Cormier and snuck the puck between the goalie’s legs. The visiting netminder inadvertently knocked the puck in himself, giving Windsor a 6-4 lead.

Saginaw refused to sit back, though. A sliding puck caught DiPietro off-guard. It glided slowly across the line to put the Spirit within one. As luck would have it, the visitors would even the score. A give-and-go found DiPietro going down too early as Kris Bennett scored with the sharp angle shot.

The Spitfires had a major opportunity in front of them as the Spirit were called for high-sticking, a double minor. A minute in, though, the Spits themselves took a penalty to nullify the other. Once all the penalties were killed off, the players were hunched over in exhaustion.

When time winded down, the teams had a few minutes to regroup and catch a breather.

Come overtime, the teams each had their share of chances. Jalen Chatfield made two outstanding defensive plays when the Spirit broke in on breakaways. Chatfield and DiPietro made sure that their team stayed alive. Shortly thereafter, the Spirit were called for a penalty, opening a monumental opportunity for the Spitfires. On three separate occasions, Lemieux tried for the one-timer. It was the third that finally connected. After shooting glove-side twice, he fired away to the blocker side. The punk rang off the inside post and to the back of the net. Lemieux roared and the crowd cheered as Windsor skated away after a tiring battle against the Saginaw Spirit. The Spits came out with a 7-6 overtime win.

Windsor is off from the WFCU Centre for the Christmas holiday, but the team will be back Monday, December 28th to face the Sarnia Sting at 7:05pm.

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