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Spits eliminate Spirit, move on to play Owen Sound Attack

Source: The Windsor Star
Written by: Bob Duff

The series decided, the celebration underway, as Zack Kassian was doing a television interview, Windsor Spitfires teammates Jake Carrick and Kenny Ryan offered dessert to their club’s hat-trick hero.

In the midst of answering a question, Kassian received a cream pie in the face.

Even off the ice, Windsor’s newcomers are delivering the sweetness.

It was a gamble, to be sure, a detour from the traditional junior hockey blueprint.

When Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel opted to switch from conventional wisdom and load up on veterans in search of an unprecedented third Memorial Cup title, it could have blown up in his face.

Their season was, after all, one loss away from ending in the opening round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs against the Erie Otters.

Instead, it’s the Spitfires who are blowing their way through the opposition en route to a date with destiny that grows more probable with each passing victory.

A 5-0 whitewash of the Saginaw Spirit Sunday at the WFCU Centre gave the Spitfires a 4-2 verdict in their second-round series and a date with the Owen Sound Attack in the Western Conference final.

“Definitely, the gamble’s paid off,” Rychel said. “We’re in the Western Conference final.”

Saginaw was one of those clubs that double-clutched when it came time to pull the trigger on a trade with Windsor.

“This is one of the teams that we couldn’t complete the deal with for Kass and Ellis,” Rychel said.

It left him in a lurch, and that was the moment Rychel decided to take his team in the other direction.

“I had about a day left to do something,” Rychel said. “We picked up the guys we needed and obviously, they’ve all contributed.”

In this series, all of Windsor’s newcomers, and the two guys they opted to keep, provided dominant efforts as the Spitfires rallied from a 2-1 series deficit.

In Game 4, Jake Carrick, acquired from Sault Ste. Marie, scored twice, and Oshawa addition Jeff Brown added a single. Trailing 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 5, Carrick’s two goals got Windsor back in it, Taylor Carnevale, a pick-up from Barrie, tied it and Ellis netted the game winner.

Sunday, along with Kassian’s three goals, Brown added one and Peterborough acquisition Adrian Robertson dished out an assist, giving him 13 playoff points.

Carrick is second in OHL playoff goal-scoring with nine, Ellis is second among scorers with 16 points and Robertson’s plus-15 leads the league.

“Carney’s getting better every game, getting used to our systems,” Rychel said. “Brownie’s a lot of glue. Robertson’s maybe the best defenceman in the OHL playoffs right now. He’s leading in plus-minus and playing big minutes.

“Carrick, I think he was embarrassed how he played in Game 3 (at Saginaw). He was terrible. He knew it, he came back, had a lot of pride and he’s played well.”

With Windsor’s big three of Kassian, Ellis and goalie Jack Campbell -Sunday’s three stars -bringing their A games, it’s OK for Spitfires fans to dare to dream big.

“Your best players have got to be your best players to move on, no matter what league it is,” Rychel said.

The night’s work done, there remained one question to be answered.

How’d the pie taste, Zack?

“I still don’t know who it was that got me,” Kassian said, “but I’ll get them back.”

Here’s another slice of life for the Spitfires.

Four more wins, plus a Mississauga win in the East final, and they get to go back to a place they’ve grown accustomed to visiting.

The Memorial Cup.

SCORING

FIRST PERIOD
WSR Khokhlachev, (7) (Kuhnhackl, Robertson), 7:19 (PP), WSR Kassian, (3) (Johnston, Carnevale), 19:17 (PP)

SECOND PERIOD
WSR Kassian, (4) (Ryan), 8:58, WSR Brown, (4) (Posa), 14:39

THIRD PERIOD
WSR Kassian, (5) , 6:31

SHOTS: WINDSOR: 13 – 13 – 12 = 38, SAGINAW: 6 – 10 – 9 = 25

PPS: WINDSOR: 2-FOR-4, SAGINAW: 0-FOR-2

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