Spits On The Right Track

By pbadmin

The 1999-2000 OHL season is over for the Windsor Spitfires after losing their Western Conference semi-final series in five games to the
Plymouth Whalers. But as they get ready to head home for the summer, they should have reason to be proud.

When Mike Kelly and Tom Webster were hired as GM and coach, respectively, last summer, people all over the league realized it wouldn’t be
long before the Spits would be contending. And the team improved its regular season by 21 points over 1988-99. However, the way they
accomplished it was a bit odd. Normally, a team wants to improve gradually over the course of the season, peaking in time for the palyoffs. But the Spits did it in reverse. They
burst out of the starting gate at a terrific pace, even seeing themselves in the CHL Top Ten list a few times.
But a couple of big losses at home just after Christmas led to a terrible second half. It didn’t help that a number of players, including top draft
choice, D Tim Gleason (NHL eligible 2001) and overage C Jeff Martin missed a number of games due to injuries. Martin, in particular, had a
season to forget, with a number of injuries, concluding with a concussion suffered in game four of the Plymouth series.
Also, goalie Michael Leighton (Chicago ’99) needed all season to recover form a groin injury, and only in the playoffs did he play the way people
knew he could. In fact, his play kept the Spits in a number of contests in the post-season.

Some good news resulted, however, with the play of Rookie Ryan Aschaber (eligible 2000). He was thrown in there early in the season, and
responded with a six game winning streak. He finished with a goals against average of 3.42, a save percentage of .881 and one shutout in 36
appearances. Not bad, all things considered.
Among the other bright spots was the play of second round pick left winger Steve Ott (eligible 2000). He finished the regular campaign with 23
goals, 39 assists and 131 penalty minutes. His 62 points led the team.
Centre Shawn Mather left Michigan State University to play in the O, and ended up with 24 goals and 55 points. He’ll make an excellant overager
next season if things turn out that way.
Right winger Craig Kennedy (eligible 2001) rounded out that line, with 10 goals and 14 assists. It’s early, of course, but it looks as though he has
a bright future as well.
Defender Gleason stepped in and by the time the playoffs rolled around, was a real leader. He was the most consistent defenceman down the
stretch and in the post season.
Also, the overagers, Martin, Vinnie Grant, who came from Ottawa at the deadline, and defenceman Luc Rioux did a good job of leading the team
during what was a transitional season.

The Spitfires weren’t much to write home about in recent years, with changes galore in the coach and GM positions. But with Kelly and Webster
providing stability and experience, the next few years should be interesting for Spitfire fans as the team once again becomes a contender for OHL