Windsor, Ont. – The Firebirds were shutout 7 – 0 in Windsor on an emotional night at the WFCU Centre. More than 6,000 fans gathered for the annual celebration of their former captain, the late Mickey Renaud. Renaud was a member of the Spitfires for three seasons, spanning 2005 to 2008. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2007 NHL entry draft. Each year, Windsor holds a tribute game on the anniversary of his sudden passing in 2008.
The game was tilted in favor of the home crowd, as netminder Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) played solid in goal, keeping the Firebirds off the scoreboard for the second time this season. On a positive note, the penalty kill was a perfect five-for-five. Luke Cavallin made 37 saves on 40 shots in relief of Garrett Forrest.
The ‘Spits scored six unanswered goals in the first period. The first tally surprised everyone on the ice. Cole Purboo made a short backhand pass along the right-wing wall to Luke Kutkevicius, who skated with the puck in an arc that appeared to be leading to a wrap-around attempt from behind the net. However, just as he reached the goal line to the left of netminder Garrett Forrest, the left-handed center lifted a rising backhand shot that found twine top-shelf just inside the near post. It was Kutkevicius’ seventh tally of the season scored at 5:01 of the first, with Purboo earning the lone assist.
The second goal came just 26 seconds later. William Sirman kicked the puck free of a scrum along the right-wing wall and quickly made a pass down low to Daniel D’Amico. With a quick give-and-go return pass, Sirman one-timed the puck into the back of the net for his sixth of the season.
Goal three came off the stick of Curtis Douglas, his 18th of the season at 9:56. Cedric Schiemenz collected the assist.
Tyler Angle scored his seventh and extended the lead to 4 – 0 with exactly six minutes remaining in the opening frame. Igor Larionov, son of the former Detroit Red Wings’ star of the same name, earned the assist in his first game back after missing the last 17 contests.
Flint opted to swap goaltenders in hopes of slowing the momentum earned by Windsor early in the tilt. Rookie netminder Luke Cavallin replaced Forrest, who made four saves on eight shots in the first 14 minutes of the game.
A minute and a half later, Cody Morgan recorded his sixth of the year, assisted by Purboo. The goal came on the first shot with Cavallin in net. The lead was five to zero in favor of the home team.
Larionov and Douglas drew assists on Thomas Stevenson’s third goal of the season at 16:58 to complete the first-period scoring. Cavallin made seven saves on nine shots in the final six minutes of the opening frame. Shots on goal after 20 minutes favored the Spitfires 17 – 4.
The ‘Birds brought a new intensity into the early part of the middle frame. They generated the first five shots on goal with a more aggressive style of play on both ends of the ice. Captain Jalen Smereck dropped the gloves after a brief conversation with the 6-foot-8, 232-pound Curtis Douglas. The officials stepped in before anything came about. The players received offsetting two-minute minors and ten-minute misconducts for the exchange.
Luke Cavallin kept the Windsor offensive at bay making 20 saves in the second period, several of which were on odd-man rushes and point-blank shots by the the home team. After 40 minutes of play, the score remained 6 – 0. Second-period shots favored Windsor 19 – 9, for a two-period advantage of 37 – 13.
The Spitfires scored their seventh goal early into the third period. Cody Morgan picked up his second of the night and seventh of the season unassisted at the 1:24 mark. The game ended at 7 – 0 on the scoreboard. Windsor’s man between the pipes, Michael DiPietro, was a perfect 20-for-20. He extended his league-leading total in the shutouts to six on the season, and 14 in his career, Windsor franchise record. The final shots on goal favored the home squad 48 – 20.
Next up for Flint, the Firebirds will travel to Mississauga Sunday evening for a Monday afternoon tilt against the Steelheads. Puck drop is set for 2 p.m. at the Hershey Centre. The game will be televised live throughout the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 432 for Rogers TV cable subscribers and 473 for Cogeco TV cable subscribers. In addition, the game can be heard live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM or online at www.us103.com.
Photo Credit: Dan Janisse / The Windsor Star
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Flint Firebirds Hockey Club