Dale Mitchell wasn't ready to shave off his mustache, and his Windsor Spitfires teammates are pleased the playoff whiskers will be evident for at least another day.
The likeable Mitchell scored three times in the third period last night to power the OHL champions to a 6-4 victory over the host Rimouski Océanic in the Memorial Cup tiebreaker game.
The Spitfires' come-from-behind win, before a disappointed crowd of 4,478 at Le Colisée, gave Windsor a spot in the tournament semi-final tonight against the QMJHL champion Drummondville Voltigeurs.
The winner advances to Sunday's title game against the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets.
With last night's loss, the Océanic were eliminated from the four-team tournament.
"I just grew it out at the beginning of the playoffs and I had a good first round and a good second round and we were winning hockey games," Mitchell said of his non-traditional, postseason mustache.
"So I decided to keep it instead of the [traditional hockey]playoff beard."
The 20-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs prospect was traded to the Spitfires from the Oshawa Generals last summer.
After a 33-goal regular season, Mitchell was a force in the OHL playoffs with 14 goals in 20 games.
Windsor cruised through the regular season, scoring an average of 4.6 goals a game, and increased that production to 5.1 in the postseason. But after the Spitfires landed in Rimouski last week, they scored only eight in their three Memorial Cup round-robin games.
Last night, however, the Spitfires rediscovered the offensive firepower that made them the pretournament favourite.
"We never played these teams before and we never really got to play our game," said Windsor forward Eric Wellwood, the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks centre Kyle Wellwood.
"We didn't get comfortable early, and we didn't have the confidence we've had all season."
The Spitfires held early leads of 1-0 and 2-1 last night, but trailed the Océanic 3-2 after the first period, and 4-2 after 40 minutes.
Then, Windsor head coach Bob Boughner and his assistants Bob Jones and D.J. Smith went to work in the second intermission, inspiring their players to put forth their best 20 minutes of the tournament.
"There wasn't a lot to say," Boughner said.
"We talked about the journey we've been on and talked about the importance of the first 10 minutes [of the third period]to get back in the game."
The Spitfires coaches tried to keep the dressing room atmosphere as positive as possible.
"We were confident in the room because we had a lot of chances in the first two periods," said Mitchell, whose team outshot the Océanic 37-21. "Our coaches were there for us and got us going. But you know what, everybody was confident.
"Nobody got on each other or was very negative. We had a mood or a feeling in the room that we were coming back."
The Océanic were involved in a lengthy 3-2 overtime loss to the Voltigeurs on Wednesday. But instead of playing with the energy they exhibited in the first two periods, they went into a passive defensive shell the Spitfires exploited for Mitchell's three goals and a last-second power-play marker from Greg Nemisz.
Rimouski put only four shots on goal in the third period.
"The thing is, we have too much character in our room to let our season end," Wellwood said.
"This game reminded me of some of those games in the series against the London Knights [in the OHL Western Conference final] when the Knights kept coming and made us wake up a few times."
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