Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Whalers hit busy stretch

The Ontario Hockey League League’s Plymouth Whalers face a busy stretch of the season when they play four games over five days this week. The Whalers enter the week tied for second place in the OHL West with the Windsor Spitfires with a record of 24-24-5-2, good for 56 points and three points behind the first place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (25-23-8-1). Windsor is 22-24-6-6.

Here is a closer look at the Whalers’ week:

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 23 – PLYMOUTH (24-24-5-3) at SAGINAW (17-35-2-4), 7:30 pm at the Saginaw Dow Event Center (7:15 pm, WSDS 1480-AM). Plymouth holds a 5-1-0-1 record over Saginaw this season. The Whalers and Spirit are on the opposite ends of the
Western Conference playoff spectrum, with Plymouth continuing to chase Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor for first place in the OHL West (and then second spot in the Western Conference seeding) and Saginaw eight points behind Guelph for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
WHO’S HOT FOR PLYMOUTH: Whalers’ leading scorer John Mitchell (23 goals with 42 assists for 65 points in 51 games) has torched the Spirit for 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points in six games. Mitchell’s linemate, John Vigilante (19-34-53), has 5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points in 7 games against Saginaw, while Dan Collins (21-17-38) has 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points in 7 games against the Spirit. Whalers are getting a lift from rookie Cory Tanaka (6-9-15), who scored in both Plymouth games last weekend and has goals in three of his last four games. Plymouth goaltender Ryan Nie (50 games, 2.57 goals against average, .915 save percentage) has played well this season against Saginaw. In 7 games against the Spirit, Nie has a 1.83 GAA and .941 save percentage.
WHO’S HOT FOR SAGINAW: Rookie Marek Kvapil (23-42-65) was the game’s first star in Saginaw’s only victory against Plymouth when he scored a goal with two assists in a 5-4 decision Feb. 13 in Saginaw. Defenseman Patrick McNeill (7-25-32) is Saginaw’s leading scorer against Plymouth this season with 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points in 7 games. Tom Pyatt (15-25-40) and Jesse Gimblett (14-13-27) lead Saginaw against the Whalers with three goals each.

FRIDAY, FEB. 25 – WINDSOR (22-24-6-6) at PLYMOUTH, 7:30 pm at the Compuware Sports Arena (7:30 pm, Comcast-Plymouth, Channel 25). Spitfires and Whalers play in the seventh of eight games during the regular season with Windsor holding a 5-1-0-0 edge. Plymouth won the last game played with Windsor in a 6-3 victory Feb. 12 at the Compuware Sports Arena. Windsor has good firepower with John Scott Dickson (28-36-64), David Lomas (32-29-61), Cal O’Reilly (18-43-61, team leading five goals against Plymouth), Steve Downie (16-44-60) and Ryan Garlock (29-30-59). In each Windsor victory against Plymouth this season, one of the Spitfire goaltenders – either Kyle Knechtel (3.43, .899) or Brad Topping (3.68, .892) – has been a star.

SATURDAY, FEB. 26 – LONDON (50-5-2-0) at PLYMOUTH, 7:30 pm at the Compuware Sports Arena (7:25 pm www.plymouthwhalers.com; tape-delayed by the Schoolcraft College Sports Network). The top team in the Canadian Hockey League plays before sellout crowds wherever they go around the OHL. Plymouth lost in overtime, 5-4, in London Oct. 1 and 4-2 in London Nov. 26. Knights lead the OHL with 248 goals scored with only 108 against. There’s tons of firepower with OHL leading scorer and Anaheim-draft Corey Perry (39-63-102), Buffalo-draft Dylan Hunter (28-58-86, second in OHL scoring), Edmonton-draft Rob Schremp (33-42-75, fifth in OHL scoring) and Chicago-draft Dave Bolland (31-38-69, eighth in OHL scoring). Veteran defenseman Danny Syvret (19-38-57) leads the OHL with a +56 rating.

SUNDAY, FEB. 27 – PLYMOUTH at ERIE (26-20-6-5), 6:00 pm at Erie’s Tullio Arena (5:45 pm, WSDS 1480-AM). Whalers have enjoyed excellent success in Erie over the years. Like Plymouth, Erie is a younger-based team looked to be on the upswing over the next
couple of seasons. Veteran Geoff Platt (39-30-69) is tied with Perry and Owen Sound’s Brad Richardson for the OHL lead in goals. Young veterans Ryan O’Marra (21-32-53) and Michael Blunden (20-18-38) are quality players worth watching.

Tickets are available for all Plymouth games by calling the Compuware Sports Arena box office Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm at (734) 453-8400. The CSA box office opens on Saturday game days at 11:00 am.

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