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Henrique latest hero for finals-bound Windsor

by Brian Fitzsimmons /

"He's a huge leader," Shutron said. "He's really stepped up his play and he's been our best forward to date. (The game-winning goal) couldn't have happened to a better guy and words can't describe how exciting it was."
-- Ben Shutron on Windsor Spitfires teammate Adam Henrique

After starting the 2009 Mastercard Memorial Cup with two consecutive losses, the Windsor Spitfires have completely turned their fortunes around. Their latest success didn't come easily, though.

It appeared the Spitfires' title hopes were in danger following a sloppy second period in Friday's semifinal, but they survived as Adam Henrique scored the game-winner at 4:31 of overtime in a 3-2 victory over the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

"It's unbelievable. We've had our backs to the wall because of losing the first two games of the tournament," Henrique said. "Losing those first two were tough, but we never backed down and kept our confidence up."

Windsor, which has won three-straight contests by a total of four goals, will face the Kelowna Rockets in Sunday's final (4:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Rogers Sportsnet, RDS).

Henrique scored twice in the tournament opener against the Voltigeurs, but his efforts weren't enough as the QMJHL champions overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period before Maxime Frenette tallied in overtime for the win.

Coming off Thursday's 6-4 triumph over the host Rimouski Oceanic in a tie-breaker game, the Spitfires wasted little time building a convincing lead in this one. Taylor Hall, a top prospect for the 2010 Entry Draft, opened the scoring with 4:13 remaining in the first period.

"It's a very exciting feeling," Hall said. "It was our best game of the tournament except for the second period. Everyone's just playing well and we're really excited for Sunday."

Ben Shutron then doubled the advantage 2:15 later, and it appeared Drummondville was near flat-lining. The Spitfires wilted in the second, however, and allowed the Voltigeurs to crawl right back.

"(A 2-0 lead) is the worst lead in hockey," Shutron said. "We kind of took our foot off the gas and took some bad penalties. But we found a way and that's all that matters. I guess it was a little frustrating, but we stayed composed. We kept getting our shots and we knew one would eventually go in."

Samson Mahbod cut the lead in half just 73 seconds into the session and Yannick Riendeau knotted the game with a late power-play goal.

The frustration persisted for Windsor since it held a 16-2 margin in shots in the third, but failed to solve goaltender Marco Cousineau, who finished with 44 saves. The Spitfires outshot the Voltigeurs, 47-21, overall.

"Maybe we should have buried some of those chances, but we came out in overtime and took advantage of them," Hall said.

Lately, Windsor has been lifted by a different hero every game.

In its 2-1 win over Kelowna on Tuesday, defenseman Ryan Ellis snapped a tie early in the final period. Then in Thursday's wild comeback victory, Dale Mitchell scored three goals in 3:33 early in the third.

On Friday, it was Henrique, who notched his third goal and team-leading seventh point of the tournament when he beat Cousineau with a rebound while stationed in front of the crease.

"He's a huge leader," Shutron said. "He's really stepped up his play and he's been our best forward to date. (The game-winning goal) couldn't have happened to a better guy and words can't describe how exciting it was."

The No. 82 pick of the 2008 Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils, Henrique received further praise by his teammates.

"For sure, he's the quiet leader," Hall said. "He comes in, night in and night out, and takes care of his business. I love playing with him on the same line. He's a very solid player. He's good in our own end and has very good offensive skills."

Henrique feels he's surrounded by leaders as well.

"There are a lot of players in the locker room who lead by example, so there's not too much pressure on me to be that guy," Henrique said. "Everyone is always confident and always positive."

The 19-year-old isn't concerned with his future career, either. After setting career highs with 30 goals and 33 assists in 56 games this year, Henrique will likely come back for his fourth season with Windsor if he fails to crack New Jersey's roster in the fall.

"I'm just enjoying my time here," Henrique said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm just trying to take it one game at a time. We'll be back at it (Sunday). We're very excited and looking forward to it."

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