1. Windsor Spitfires vs. 3. Flint Firebirds

It took 11 long years, but the Windsor Spitfires finally made it back to the Western Conference Finals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). They come in as the top seed and will face their Michigan rivals, the third-seeded Flint Firebirds, for a title shot. This will be one for the ages.

The last time the Spitfires made the Conference Finals, they lost to the Owen Sound Attack in five games in 2011. Since then, they hadn’t won a single playoff round until this season. What a season it’s been too. They have struggled with roster turnover, injuries and the uncertainty of COVID-19. While they managed to grab the top spot in the conference at the end of the season, the Firebirds gave them a serious battle. In the playoffs, both teams showed they were the real deal. With a chance at J. Ross Robertson Cup (OHL Championship) on the line, not to mention a possible trip to Saint John, NB, for the 2022 Memorial Cup, neither team will settle for less than four wins.

Let’s get into all this…

The vitals

Recordings:

Windsor Spitfires – 44-17-4-3 – 95 points – 1st Western Conference

Flint Firebirds – 42-21-1-4 – 89 points – 3rd Western Conference

Home and away records:

Spitfire- 25-7-1-1 (home); 19-10-3-2 (Road)

Firebirds – 18-14-0-2 (home); 24-7-1-2 (road)

The WFCU Center in Windsor, ON in February 2018 before a game between the Windsor Spitfires and the Flint Firebirds. (Dave Jewell/THW)

Goals for and goals against:

spitfire – 305 – 248

Firebirds – 286 – 238

Head-to-head records:

Spitfire- 7-0-0-1

Firebirds – 1-5-1-1

  • The Spitfires outscored the Firebirds 46 – 25

Top Producers and Goalie Stats

The 3 best producers:

spitfire

  • 1. Wyatt Johnston – 68 games, 46 goals, 78 points, 124 points (led OHL)
  • 2. Matthew Major – 66 games, 38 goals, 47 assists, 85 points
  • 3. Will Cuyle – 59 games, 43 goals, 37 assists, 80 points

fire birds

  • 1. Brennan Othman – 66 games, 50 goals, 47 assists, 97 points
  • 2. Amadeus Lombardi- 67 games, 18 goals, 41 assists, 59 points
  • 3. Riley Piercey– 59 games, 27 goals, 31 assists, 58 points

Goalkeepers:

spitfire

  • Xavier Medina 30 games, 18-8-1-2, .891 save percentage (SV%), 3.05 goals-against average (GAA)
  • Mathias Onuska 29 games, 19-5-1-1, .884 SV%, 3.31 GAA
Matt Onuska Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires goaltender Mathias Onuska has been a playoff rock. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

fire birds

  • Luc Cavallin – 56 games, 36-14-1-3, .910 SV%, 3.16 GAA
  • Nathaniel Day – 8 games, 2-3-0-1, .883 SV%, 3.63 GAA
  • Ian Michelone– 10 games, 4-4-0-0, .884 SV%, 4.37 GAA

Playoff stats and clubs’ journey so far

The 3 best producers:

spitfire

  • 1. WyattJohnston– 11 games, 8 goals, 15 assists, 23 points
  • 2. Will Cuylle – 11 games, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points
  • 3. Alex Christopoulos – 11 games, 6 goals, 2 assists, 8 points

fire birds

  • 1. Brennan Othman – 12 games, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points
  • 2. Gavin Hayes– 12 games, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points
  • 3. Amadeus Lombardi- 12 games, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points
Brennan Othmann Flint Firebirds
Brennan Othmann of the Flint Firebirds. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Goalkeepers:

spitfire

  • Mathias Onuska – 11 games, 8-2-1, .910 SV%, 2.26 GAA

fire birds

  • Luc Cavallin – 12 games, 8-4-0, .934 SV%, 2.40 GAA

Club playoff routes so far:

spitfire

Goals for – Goals against: 41 – 27

fire birds

  • Round 1 – def. #6 Owen Sound Attack 4-3
  • 2nd round – def. #4 Soo Greyhounds 4-1

Goals for – Goals against: 44 – 32

Playoff history between clubs

The clubs have not faced each other in the playoffs since Flint moved from Plymouth, MI. However, the Whalers and Spitfires have had many series over the years:

2010 – No. 1 Spitfires beat No. 4 Whalers 4-0 in the second round.

2009 – No. 1 Spitfires beat No. 4 Whalers 4-2 in the second round.

2006 – No. 2 Whalers beat No. 7 Spitfires 4-3 in the first round

Related: Saying Goodbye to an OHL Original: Windsor Arena

2001 – No. 2 Whalers beat No. 3 Spitfires 4-0 in the second round.

2000 – No. 1 Whalers beat No. 5 Spitfires 4-1 in the second round

1999 – No. 1 Whalers beat No. 8 Spitfires 4-0 in the first round

What the Spitfires Bring to the Conference Championship

There’s just something intriguing about this Spitfires club. While they can score at will on some nights and play defensive, defensive hockey on others, there’s a cohesion that hasn’t been seen since the 2009 and 2010 Memorial Cup Championships. Top to bottom, they play for each other, and every line can hurt you on any given shift. While their offense struggled a bit in the opening round, they found their game against Rangers and are on full throttle. They are a confident team, regardless of the score.

Wyatt Johnston Windsor Spitfires
Wyatt Johnston had a dynamic playoff run for the Windsor Spitfires. (Terry Wilson/OHL Pictures)

At the start of the season, few would have believed the Spitfires would be in the Western Conference championship. It’s reality, though, and they soak it all up. All season the team has shown they can handle adversity, and when the chips are down, they fight back with everything.

What the Firebirds Bring to the Conference Championship

On their first trip to the conference championship, the Firebirds are a club built to win. They have faced the Spitfires in the standings all season, only getting the third seed after the Spitfires won 13 games in a row towards the end of the season. Want to play an offensive game of pond hockey? They can do it with Dallas Stars prospect Brennan Othmann, veteran Ethan Keppen and a very deep group of forwards. They also have outstanding goalkeepers in Luke Cavallin, 21 years oldwho would like to end his career at the top.

Ethan Keppen Flint Firebirds
Flint Firebirds veteran Ethan Keppen is looking for a long playoff streak to end his OHL career. (Natalie Shaver/OHL Pictures)

The Firebirds outnumbered a great Greyhounds team in the second round and have no plans to stop now. Their fans have been through a lot in recent years with various off-ice problems, and this is an opportunity for the club to thank them for their continued support. The management have put together a dominant team, and they will give their all to the favourites.

Prediction

When you have two powerhouse teams entering a critical playoff stage for the first time (or the first time in over a decade), hockey will be exciting. Both clubs bring a high-octane attack, solid defense and the will to make history. While the Spitfires play at home, the Firebirds have been the best road team in the league this season. It could all come down to this mental game, and with a dominating head-to-head record this season, it could give the Spitfires the edge. Prediction: Spitfires in 6.

Matthew Maggio Windsor Spitfire
The Windsor Spitfires front row celebrate a goal earlier in 2021-22. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

Program

Game 1 – Saturday, May 21 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – Monday, May 23 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 25 at Flint – 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 – Friday, May 27 at Flint – 7:00 p.m.
Game 5 – Sunday, May 29 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m. (if needed)
Game 6 – Tuesday, May 31 in Flint – 7:00 p.m. (if needed)
Game 7 – Wednesday, June 1 at Windsor – 7:05 p.m. (if needed)

Ticket information

Tickets for games at the WFCU Center in Windsor range from $23.90 to $47.90 (plus fees) and are available on the Spitfires website.

Tickets for games at the Dort Financial Center in Flint range from US$16 to US$28 and are available on the Firebirds website.


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