The Windsor Spitfires are underdogs at this year’s Memorial Cup, but the team has plenty of weapons at its disposal – and a tank full of gas.
The City of Windsor last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1981, back when it was held in neutral cities. Since the format was restructured in 1983, the Spitfires have played in the tournament three times – advancing to the final on each occasion. They won twice, in 2009 and 2010.
Now, the team will try to win the Cup after a six-year absence.
And the connection between Windsor and HockeyNow is strong. Windsor is the home town of HockeyNow’s 2016 Minor Hockey Player of the Year (POY) Owen Lalonde. Further, the Spitfires feature our 2015 POY Gabriel Vilardi, who is currently ranked third on the ISS Top 31 and has been in the top 5 all season.
The Spitfires aren’t the sexiest attraction at this year’s Memorial Cup. Look to Thomas Chabot’s Sea Dogs or Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome’s Otters for highlight-reel exploits. The Spits, as the team is nicknamed (like the legendary Michigan punk band), are more of a punk rock choice.
The team is led by none other than Jeremy Bracco, an American right winger who cut class for good when he turned his back on NCAA hockey in favour of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in 2015. Now a Spit, Bracco gives this team an elite, pro-ready playmaker.
The Spits also have Logan Brown, who has rebelled against his father (67’s coach Jeff Brown) as a cross-conference rival in the OHL for three seasons. Brown gives the team a huge presence around the net with an elite snapper and quick wheels for a 6-foot-6 giant.
Behind the bench, former NHL tough-guy Rocky Thompson calls the shots. You may remember him as the squeaky wheel who took almost $7,500 fines for calling out the London Knights and game officials after a playoff game in March. Although the fines probably weren’t the grease he wanted, he had to have anticipated them and thumbed his nose at the league anyway.
The Spits are loaded with NHL talent, but many have these players have been forgotten in the year-end media hype. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t escape the first round of the OHL playoffs (losing to a very strong Knights squad in seven), but nobody seems to remember how many NHL-drafted players are on this team.
From Graham Knott (CHI) to Jeremiah Addison and Mikhail Sergachev (MTL), this team was brought together for a shot at the Memorial Cup.
They may have placed fifth in the strong OHL Western Conference, but they only lost 19 games and finished with a win percentage of .662.
That would have been good enough for second in the east.
The team also has draft-eligible netminder Michael DiPietro. He has become the team’s number one goaltender this year, and he’s responded well to the challenge. His numbers are impressive (2.35 GAA, .917 SP), and he should go fairly early in the draft this summer. He’s made a consistent showing on ISS Hockey’s Top 20 goalie prospects, and was ranked #6 on the latest list, released in May.
Of course, a good showing at the Memorial Cup Tournament will help his cause.
The Spitfires could be helped by their first-round OHL playoff loss. While they’ve had the entire month to rest, the rest of the tournament’s participants will have just a week off before they head back into the fray. This could backfire though—the Spitfires might have to scrape off some rust in the early going.
The last time a host won this thing was 2012, when the Shawinigan Cataractes bested the London Knights in the final. Don’t count out the Spits’ chances to make it happen in 2017.
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