With most players preparing to head home to their respective families for Christmas break following tonight's game, the Saginaw Spirit (17-12-3-0) may have been caught thinking a bit too far ahead, coming out quite flat in the early going, surrendering 3-goals in the first thirteen-and-a-half minutes, before eventually falling 5-1 to the Windsor Spitfires (18-11-2-1) at The Dow Event Center tonight.
Coming into tonight's game, Saginaw and Windsor; along with the Guelph Storm were in a 3-way tie for fourth place in the OHL's western conference standings (with 37-points apiece) and following a Guelph loss to the Soo Greyhounds prior to the start of tonight's game, the Spirit would find themselves in position to take over sole possession of fourth place, however, that distinction would ultimately go to the Spit's (39-points) while the Spirit (37-points) and Guelph (37-points) settle into a tie for fifth place.
Windsor, who was without last year's Memorial Cup winning goal tender Michael DiPietro (who found out yesterday he was one of the final 5-players cut from the 2018 WJC U20 Canadian national team) went off on a 3-goal barrage when forward Jake Smith (7) beat Spirit goal tender Evan Cormier to give the Spit's a 1-0 lead with assists from Cole Purboo and Connor Corcoran at 4:15 of the opening period.
A few minutes later, Smith returned the favor, assisting on a goal, which Purboo (10) knocked in out of mid-air past Cormier for a 2-0 lead at 7:56 of the first period, before a lackadaisical pass by a Spirit defenseman led to an unassisted breakaway goal for Windsor forward Curtis Douglas (9) to build a 3-0 Windsor lead as Cormier was chased in favor of backup Cameron Lamour at 13:33 of the first period.
The Spirit started showing signs of life midway through the second period when Damien Giroux (13) buried his thirteenth goal of the season with an assist coming from Blade Jenkins to cut into the Windsor lead (3-1) at 8:40 of the second period.
What little air that remained inside the Dow Event Center, instantly poured out (like a popped balloon) when Purboo (11) beat Lamour for his second goal of the night with an assist from William Sirman to give Windsor a commanding 4-1 lead at 14:58 of the second period.
The Spitfires put the finishing touches on the win when defenseman Austin McEneny (1) picked up a pass while trailing the play into the zone, before firing a wrist shot over Lamour's shoulder for his first goal of the season with assists from Smith and Purboo to round out the scoring (5-1) at 6:25 of the third period.
Purboo led Windsor with 4-points (2-goals, 2-assists) followed by Smith with 3-points (1-goal, 2-assists), while goal tender Lucas Patton turned away 27 of the 28 shots he would see in net for the Spitfires.
Cormier stopped 8 of the 11 shots he faced in net for the Spirit throughout the first half of the opening period, before Lamour replaced him, turning away 13 of the next 15 shots in the final two-and-a-half periods.
It doesn't get any easier for the Spirit upon returning from Christmas break when the Canadian Hockey League's No. 1 ranked team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (29-3-2-0) come to town on Thursday Dec. 28, for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center.