The Windsor Arena isn't the nicest place to visit on the best of day's, it's old, it's damp, the dressing rooms for the visitors are so cramped that players are often seen loitering in the halls between periods. The fans at times can be rather hard on some of the visiting players at times as well. It was a place that DeBoer called home for several years of his OHL career and those were good years especially in 1988 when the Spitfires weren't only the class of the league, but the team that DeBoer captained went through the playoff without a single loss - the last championship year for a somewhat hapless looking franchise at the current time. In the second stage of his hockey career, it's been anything but home for DeBoer. DeBoer's Whalers simply tormented the Spitfires. The Rangers? They haven't won in Windsor since February 28th of 2002, nearly 4 years ago when the Rangers snuck away with a 3-2 overtime victory, since that time the Rangers have accumulated six losses (including one overtime loss) and a tie that the Rangers picked up last season. It probably didn't help that the Spitfires won 8 straight on home ice when the Rangers wandered into town.
The Rangers hadn't seen the "less-opposition
friendly" Spitfires. Certainly, the figurative doormat is gone, it's
been replaced with a rather annoying and obtrusive iron curtain called
the Spitfires' defense a veteran unit that is still missing some of its
bigger cogs due to various ailments. For David Lomas who was with
the Spitfires' organization for parts of 4 seasons, it was his first visit
back to the Madhouse on MacDougald. Patrick Davis won't get a return
visit to the Aud in Kitchener unless he either returns as an overager next
season or his Windsor Spitfires have a post-season rendez-vous with the
Rangers. The Spitfires, are pretty much all-new, they have managed
to unload several malcontents including: Steve Downie, Akim Aliu, Brett
Liscomb and others like David Lomas whom really needed a change in scenary
after much of the negativity in Windsor. A quick look at many of
the acquisitions of the Spitfires reveals a trend or at least a theme towards
team speed something that the team hasn't found overly necessary playing
on the small and often times poor ice surface that they have in North America's
oldest running arena. The new Spitfires would not be the same as
the ones that were blown out in Kitchener twice earlier this season.
After what was a very impressive 3rd period with their backs' up against the wall in Plymouth the Rangers simply did not carry any of that momentum into their tilt with the Spitfires who really didn't them much room to work with in the early going. In fact they simply blanketed the Rangers' offense which in previous games had proven that it could really, really break out in a bad way, especially in Plymouth with their early 3 goal outburst against the Whalers. Once the two teams finished feeling each other out, it was the Spitfires who got the early jump on the Rangers they had several opportunities, early and late in the first period forced their netminder to come up with a couple of brilliant stops including one huge outstretched glove stop that had the crowd on its feet. The shots were wildly lopsided the play may have been even moreso. The Rangers' only positive of the period was a rather lengthy two-man advantage that the Rangers barely managed to kill. In the second period it was more of the same to start as an ill-advised drop pass found its way on to the stick of one of the Spitfires grinders - fortuantely Turple was there for the breakaway stop.
The Rangers cranked it up later in the second period, they forced Guadagnolo to make several big stops, highlighted by a kick stop on David Lomas. The Rangers and Spitfires appeared to be en route to overtime with a scoreless game, for the Spitfires it would have been familiar terriotory as they defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 1-0 during a shootout. As the team with the lowest goals against average in the OHL, the Rangers wouldn't exactly be in foreign territory either. Ryan Garlock ended things only seconds before the game's last minute picking up a rebound and chipping it in over Turple's shoulder unharassed in the slot. For the Spitfires it was sweat revenge for the poundings that they fell victim to early in the season at the Aud in Kitchener. For Rangers' netminder Dan Turple it was a hard pill to swallow after a sometimes spectacular shutout bid was lost in the dying minutes of the game. The netminders deservidely were the first and second stars of the game. The Rangers had a season-low 2 power play opportunities and failed to score on either power play.