DETROIT -- Montreal Canadiens prospect Brady Vail and 2014 NHL Draft top prospect Josh Ho-Sang helped the Windsor Spitfires defeat the Saginaw Spirit in a wild 6-5 victory at Comerica Park on Sunday in the first outdoor regular-season game in Ontario Hockey League history.
Vail had assists on three straight Windsor goals, and Ho-Sang added two assists during a four-goal period as the Spitfires roared back from a two-goal deficit early in the second, but then needed a late shorthanded winner from Steven Janes after taking five consecutive penalties, including a pair of double-minors, in the final period.
The Saginaw Spirit and the Windsor Spitfires play in the first game of an OHL doubleheader at Comerica Park on Sunday as part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival. (Photo: OHL Images)
The game was the first of an OHL doubleheader as part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival, a five-day showcase in Detroit as part of the lead-up to the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.
Saginaw grabbed a two-goal lead early in the second period but gave it away in a span of 33 seconds and the Spitfires kept rolling. Windsor forward Cristiano DiGiacinto collected a loose puck off a faceoff and snapped a shot into the top left corner at 5:21.
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek, a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (No. 10) by the Tampa Bay Lightning, switched places at the point with Vail and ripped a straightaway one-timer past Saginaw goaltender Nikita Serebryakov at 5:54 for a power-play goal.
Windsor added another extra-man tally at 9:31 of the second. Vail and Ho-Sang earned assists when Remy Giftopoylos banged in a goal from the top of the crease to push the Spitfires in front. Brody Milne made it a two-goal cushion and a four-goal period when Ho-Sang made a pretty play to hold off a defender and drop a pass to Milne with his back to goal for a shot in the slot at 11:56.
Saginaw scored twice on the power play in the third period during Windsor's string of penalties before Janes spun and flung a shot toward the net that beat Serebryakov at 14:37 of the third.
Vail was a fourth-round pick (No. 94) in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He now has 15 goals and 43 points in 36 games this season. Ho-Sang, an A-rated prospect by NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming draft, has 18 goals and a team-high 44 points for the Spitfires.
The Spirits' No. 1 goalie, Detroit Red Wings prospect Jake Paterson, is currently with Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden.
Plymouth 2, London 1 (SO)
Alex Nedeljkovic made 44 saves and the Whalers defeated the Knights in a shootout to complete the second half of the OHL doubleheader.
Francesco Vilardi and Zach Lorentz scored in the tiebreaker for Plymouth, and Nedeljkovic stopped three of four London shooters.
Nedeljkovic was spectacular for the Whalers, but London's leading scorer, Chris Tierney, made it a 1-1 game by scoring with 2:14 left in regulation. The Knights had a power play and pulled the goaltender to create a two-man advantage before Tierney collected a pass from Max Domi and squeezed a shot from the slot past the Plymouth goaltender.
Nedeljkovic showed why he could be a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. The 17-year-old was sensational, particularly in the first two periods when the Knights carried the play for long stretches. He made a few saves on shots from players who found space alone in front of him, and turned aside multiple breakaways.
Defenseman Mathieu Henderson gave the Whalers the lead 98 seconds into the third period with his fifth goal of the season.
The Knights, who are among the most talented teams in all of Canadian junior hockey, were missing starting goaltender Anthony Stolarz (a second-round pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012) and a pair of 2013 first-round picks, defenseman Nikita Zadorov and forward Bo Horvat. They are in Sweden for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
London still had two other 2013 first-rounders in forwards Domi (Phoenix Coyotes) and Michael McCarron (Montreal Canadiens), as well as Tierney, a second-round choice by the San Jose Sharks in 2012.