DETROIT -- Brady Vail had a bit of an unconventional path to get here, but he certainly enjoyed his first experience playing hockey outdoors at Comerica Park.
Vail, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (No. 94), had assists on three straight goals to help the Windsor Spitfires rally from an early deficit before hanging on for a 6-5 victory against the Saginaw Spirit in the first game of an Ontario Hockey League doubleheader Sunday at the home of the Detroit Tigers.
"Our power play has been firing well, and it was good to get us back in the game," Vail said. "I didn't know until after the game that I had [three assists]. I don't know what was going on towards the end, but we found a way to score the winner."
After Windsor fell behind 3-1 early in the second period, Vail assisted on the next three goals to put the Spitfires in front. They took a 5-3 lead into the final period before taking six penalties, including two double-minors, in the final 20 minutes.
Saginaw scored twice to tie the game, but then Steven Janes scored a shorthanded goal for the Spirits with 5:23 remaining. Windsor still had to finish killing off that penalty and one more before escaping with the victory.
The game was part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival, a five-day showcase in Detroit as part of the lead-up to the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium. It was also the first outdoor regular-season game in OHL history.
"It was a great day for our organization and a great day for the OHL," Windsor coach Bob Boughner said. "It was pretty special that this was the first time to be part of it."
Vail was born in Henderson, N.C., but moved to Florida when he was 3 years old. His path to the OHL and NHL Draft didn't start on a pond or in a local rink; it was on roller blades.
He played in-line hockey as a kid, and didn't make the full-time switch to ice skates until he was 10 years old.
"It was tough to get on the ice," Vail said. "The closest rink was an hour-and-a-half [away]. When I was 10, I switched over and when I was 12, I moved up to Detroit to play."
He eventually joined the Compuware youth hockey program, and moved to Northville, Mich., a town near Plymouth, where Compuware is based. Vail's teams made the trip down to Detroit often as he was growing up.
"We used to play against Little Caesars in The Joe," Vail said of the area's other major youth program, which played its home games at Joe Louis Arena. "This was a first for me, though, for sure."
The Canadiens gave Vail his first experience with professional hockey at the end of last season. He played 12 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League after Windsor's season ended, and he had a goal and four points.
"It was a great experience," Vail said. "I learned a lot about what I needed to work on and what it takes to play there and even onto the next level. I kind of brought that back with me, a lot of stuff on and off the ice about the way I need to carry myself and the work it takes to get there. It was good to get a little taste of it, but I hope the next time is a little more permanent."
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