Monday, January 31, 2005

Whalers and Spirit conclude busy weekend

The Plymouth Whalers took three of six points last weekend in three crucial West Division games while their intra-state rival Saginaw Spirit did the same.

Plymouth beat the Spirit Friday night, lost to the Windsor Spitfires the next evening and then rallied four times to tie Saginaw on Sunday afternoon.

Friday night at home, Plymouth co-captain John Mitchell had two goals and three assists, John Vigilante had a goal and three helpers and Steve Ward added two goals in the 5-0 whitewash. Ryan Nie made 33 saves for his second shutout of the year.

"Nie played great tonight," Plymouth head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci said. "His play really made the difference and changed the complexion of the game."

Windsor then came into the Compuware Sports Arena and beat the Whalers for the fifth straight time this year. Plymouth led 1-0 after the first 20 minutes on a goal by co-captain Tim Sestito, but the Spits then rattled off three unanswered tallies for the 3-1 win. Nie made 34 stops.

"I don't know what it is," Nie said. "We come out strong and then we seem to shut it down. We just can't maintain focus."

Sunday in Saginaw, the Whalers rallied from one-goal deficits four times and eventually tied it, 4-4, on a late goal by Ward. Mitchell, Jonas Fiedler and Sestito scored for Plymouth, now 17-1-2-1 all-time against the Spirit.

Tom Pyatt, with two, and Daniel Borges and Jesse Gimblett scored for Saginaw, who got a 33-save performance from Aaron Rock.

"This is a game we would have been glad to get the point from earlier this season," said Spirit head coach and general manager Bob Mancini. "I think its a testament to how far the players have come that we're disappointed with the tie."

Nie made 36 saves for Plymouth (21-20-5-3). Saginaw is now 15-28-2-4, eight points out of a playoff spot.

"We're coming together as a team," Saginaw defenseman Patrick McNeill said. "We're working hard and I think the team's really confident right now."

Saginaw had beaten the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 4-2, on Saturday night at the Dow Events Center at Wendler Arena. Marek Kvapil had a hat trick and Tommy Mannino scored the other.

"We've been proving that we're not going to give up in the last couple of games," Gimblett said. "We want everyone to know that we won't give up."

Jeff Weber stopped 33 shots in the win. He had stopped 29 Friday night.

The Whalers are at Kitchener on Friday and then host the Toronto St. Michael's Majors on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Saginaw hosts Toronto Friday night (7:00 p.m.), Owen Sound Saturday (3:35 p.m.) and then visit Windsor on Sunday for a 1:00 matinee.

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