Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Growing pains can be difficult. Despite winning five of their last eight games, the Windsor Spitfires took a hard lesson on Thursday night, dropping a 6-2 decision to the London Knights at the WFCU Centre in Windsor.

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The first half has really been a tale of two teams for the Spitfires. They started the season with four wins in 21 games, which prompted several coaching changes. Since that chaos, they went 5-3, including 2-1 on this homestand. However, the Knights beat them 10-7 earlier this season and had no plans to go easy, even with four regulars out of the lineup (including Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Easton Cowan). Here are three takeaways from a rough Thursday night.

3 Takeaways from Spitfires and Knights

Thurs., Dec. 14 – 6-2 loss v. Knights

Current record: 9-20-1-0 – 19 points (last in Western Conference, tied for last in OHL)

3. Every Game is Important for Spitfires

With four Knights out of the lineup, this might have been the perfect time for the Spitfires to take advantage and grab two points. However, it didn’t happen.

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While the Knights jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, Spitfires’ veteran forward Ryan Abraham scored a pair 26 seconds apart to tie it. However, that’s as close as they would come. The visitors responded, took advantage of miscues, and cruised to a 6-2 win.

Spitfires interim head coach Casey Torres gave the Knights full credit. He said his club was too loose with their sticks, creating careless puck possession in the neutral zone. Add in the visitors wanting to show they were more than those four players and it’s a lesson learned.

“Credit to them; they had four important players out of their lineup,” he said. “It would be easy on the weekend before Christmas to come in and mail it in. They competed hard and clearly wanted to show that they’re more than the four players. For us, it sucks because we’re not in a position to take a lot of learning lessons.”

Windsor Spitfires’ interim head coach Casey Torres. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

Spitfires’ defenceman Roberto Mancini, acquired from the Saginaw Spirit in November, said they might have been too arrogant knowing the Knights were down players.

“I think it’s a learning curve,” he said. “Our team has been so consistent in the last few games, working extremely hard and earning our wins that way, that I think today we came out a little too cocky in a sense knowing that they had their top four players away.”

The Spitfires have been playing a tight, team-based game since the coaching changes. If they’re going to get into the playoffs, they can’t take anyone lightly. It’s a tough lesson to learn but one that’s necessary in this situation.

2. Can’t Ignore Attack on Saturday

The Spitfires now head up north to Owen Sound to face the Attack on Saturday night. The clubs met earlier this season in Windsor, where the visitors won a 12-3 thumping. This is the type of game that the Spitfires can’t afford to look past. Mancini said that the veterans, himself included, need to keep the team focused because every point is important now.

“Stay focused,” he said. “Everyone’s mind is on going home, but we have a game. It’s my job to help out and make sure everyone is focused for that game, 60 minutes … Then everyone go have fun for 10 days, come back ready to work again.”

Windsor Spitfires’ defenceman Roberto Mancini. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

Torres said that the Spitfires’ approach of “win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose a game” doesn’t help in the long run. They need to start putting together a string of wins because that’s the only way to get out of this hole. It’s not going to be solved in a weekend but will progressively get better day after day. That can start on Saturday (Dec. 16) if they play the right way.

“When I scouted with Pittsburgh, the running joke was, ‘do you need to go that weekend?’” he said. “Guys tend to mentally check out, and the hockey is sloppy. We made emphasis before the game tonight that we’re not in a position where we can afford to take nights off and put in a sloppy outing. We have to take advantage of a great opportunity; this is a team ahead of us in the standings. We have to be harder on our stick, and it’s going to be harder up there, too. It’s a really small barn with square corners and a short neutral zone. The game will close in and condense on you.”

1. Christmas is Coming

Once the final buzzer sounds on Saturday night (Dec. 16), the Spitfires will head their separate ways for some holiday rest and relaxation. It’s a chance for the players and coaches to spend time with their loved ones before preparing for a chaotic second half. What are their plans for the holidays? Torres said he’s looking forward to seeing his kids.

“Get home, see the kids for sure,” he said. “It’s tough being away from them … (I’m) excited to have the Christmas season. It’s always fun when you have kids, seeing their excitement and joy, and even our guys here. It’s nice to see kids have a great time with the holiday season. I much more enjoy watching the excitement they have, too.”

Mancini hasn’t seen his family since the summertime. When you add in the trade to the Spitfires, time at home will be relaxing.

“I haven’t been home since August, so it’ll definitely be nice to see my family,” he said. “I’m still focused on the last game, then it’s chill time.”

Related: Windsor Spitfires Shake Roster, Make Trades with Spirit and Fronts

Now, the big question – what’s on their Christmas wish lists? Torres laughed and said more wins, while Mancini said he’s asking for a new phone. Abraham, though, isn’t sure where he stands with Santa.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know if Santa put me on the nice list or not.”

Windsor Spitfires’ forward Ryan Abraham. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

As we all get ready to enjoy time with our families and loved ones, Torres has a Christmas message for the fans.

“Merry Christmas, and thank you for your support,” he said. “We’re going to try everything in our power to make this team something you can respect and get behind for the rest of the season.”

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