Kassian's Spits on cusp of title defense

Zack Kassian did not register a point Sunday, but despite not being 100% healthy with a still undisclosed upper body injury, still found a way to contribute as Windsor took game three of the OHL Championship over Barrie, 5-2. The reigning Memorial Cup Champion Spitfires, who now hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Colts, will look to use the brooms on their Eastern Conference counterparts and earn the right to defend the CHL title when they take the ice for game four Tuesday evening at the WFCU Center Tuesday.

Defenseman Nick Crawford finished even for the Colts after being on the for one goal for and another against. The hallmark of his game continues to be pateint, simple plays with the puck and execution on the power play. Kassian meanwhile, elevated his hitting in the final twenty minutes, using strength to win battles on the boards and his thick slap shot to create rebound opportunites.

Outshooting the Spits by a 44-30 margin, Barrie dictated much of the pace with many prime scoring opportunities. The game’s difference maker however was 18-year old netminder Philip Grubauer, as the German made several difficult stops en route to a 42-save performance that, along with an Adam Henrique hat trick, put Windsor in the series driver’s seat.

The game became quite chippy down the stretch as Kassian and teammate Adam Wallace finished off hits on Colts forward Matt Kennedy, spawning a brief melee with just :49 remaining on the clock. The 6'3 Kassian, nursing what is thought to be a hyperextended elbow, would receive a misconduct after pairing off with Matt Stanisz (below). Just nine seconds later, Colts forward Darren Archibald took a full throttle run at Grubauer, sparking another powder keg that likely sets a physical stage for Tuesday's titan clash.

Winners of their conference final over Kitchener after being down 3-0 to start the series, Windsor knows not to get too comfortable holding a commanding lead. The fact that bad blood spilled on to the ice in the final minute of play Sunday should keep the red and white troops motivated as they eye a trip to Brandon, Manitoba for the 2010 Mastercard Memorial Cup.
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