Spitting distance from Mem Cup

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

BRAMPTON -- The Windsor Spitfires have brought some relief to their beleaguered city with their fine play in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

Now, the Spits are a win away from giving residents of Windsor, rocked by the failing economy, a reason to party.

Before a crowd of 4,861 at the Powerade Centre last night -- the most people to watch a Battalion home game in the team's 11 years -- the Spitfires beat Brampton 4-1 to assume a 3-1 lead in the OHL final. Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night in Windsor.

Though Brampton might have played its best game of the series, firing 41 shots at Andrew Engelage. Thought to be a weak link, in so much that many observers figured Brampton's Thomas McCollum gave his team an advantage in net, Engelage was excellent last night.

"I wouldn't say it got my back up," Engelage, never drafted by an NHL club, said of the pre-series talk that McCollum was better. "(A lack of respect) is something I have become a little bit accustomed to. We have the highest-scoring offence in the league, so I just have to make sure I make the saves I need to."

Only Brampton captain Cody Hodgson, who had been stopped on a few occasions earlier, could beat Engelage. That happened on a breakaway in the second period, which made the score 2-1 for Windsor. But a pair of goals by Russian rookie Andrei Loktionov in the third period provided a double shot that killed the Battalion's chances for a comeback.

McCollum, meanwhile, left the game with less than three minutes left when Spits forward Dale Mitchell, a Maple Leafs prospect, crashed into him. Though it appeared Battalion defenceman Josh Day tripped Mitchell, the play incensed Brampton coach Stan Butler.

"I don't know how that's not a five-minute penalty," Butler said. "The referees have got to make those calls, but for some reason in this series, they just put their whistles away and go back to 1970s standards."

It was a comment sure to draw attention from the league.

Ben Shutron and Scott Timmins also scored for Windsor, whose only OHL title came in 1988. The Battalion was without Evgeny Grachev, the team's third-leading playoff scorer, who had flu-like symptoms.

Among the spectators were Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and senior VP of hockey operations David Nonis. Though they still covet John Tavares, the duo got another look at Brampton centre Matt Duchene, but would have to find a willing trade partner to move up from the No. 7 spot in the draft.


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