Thursday, February 10, 2005

Whalers play three-in-three this weekend

The Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers come into this upcoming weekend’s action with their fate squarely in their collective hands. Plymouth (21-22-5-3) is now tied with Sault Ste. Marie (21-23-7-1) for first place in the OHL’s West Division with 50 points, and the Whalers and Greyhounds are two points ahead of the Windsor Spitfires (18-22-6-6).

Plymouth hosts the Saginaw Spirit on Friday and the Windsor Spitfires on Saturday at the Compuware Sports Arena before playing Sunday afternoon in Saginaw. Sault Ste. Marie hosts Oshawa on Friday and Barrie on Saturday at the Sault Memorial Gardens. Windsor hosts Oshawa Thursday night at Windsor Arena, plays in Guelph on Friday and then in Plymouth on Saturday night.

Here a closer look at Plymouth’s action this weekend:

FRIDAY, FEB. 11 – SAGINAW (16-30-2-4) at PLYMOUTH (21-22-5-3), 7:30 pm, Compuware Sports Arena (7:30 pm, Comcast- Plymouth, Channel 25).
The Whalers have a 4-0-1 edge on Saginaw in five games this year and lead the all-time series 30-10-4-1. Saginaw has picked up the pace over the second half and is just six points behind Guelph for the final playoff spot in the OHL’s Western Conference.
WHO TO WATCH FOR SAGINAW: Although veteran goaltender and former Whaler Jeff Weber (35 games, 3.03 goals against, .916 save percentage) has better numbers than backup Aaron Rock (11, 4.35, .893), Rock has actually played better against the Whalers. The Spirit is led offensively by Marek Kvapil (21 goals, 30 assists for 51 points in 37 games), Tom Pyatt (14-24-38), Jesse Gimblett (13-13-26), St. Louis draft pick Michal Birner (9-19-28) and Farmington Hills native Tom Mannino (17-21-38).
WHO TO WATCH FOR PLYMOUTH: Veteran John Mitchell (46, 20-37-57, +13) enters the weekend moving up several all-time career charts. Mitchell is ninth on Plymouth’s all-time scoring list with 212 points, is currently sixth overall with 137 career assists and third overall with 241 career games. Barring injury or suspension, Mitchell and fellow veteran Jonas Fiedler (238 games) will break Eric Gooldy’s all-time career mark of 249 games played before the end of the regular season. Second-year players James Neal (50, 15-21-36) and Dan Collins (51, 19-16-35) give the Whalers another dynamic deminson when they are playing well. Goaltender Ryan Nie (45, 2.55, .917) shut out Saginaw, 5-0, two weeks ago at the Compuware Sports Arena for his second shutout of the season and remains among the top five in all OHL goaltending categories.

SATURDAY, FEB. 12 – WINDSOR (18-22-6-6) at PLYMOUTH, 7:30 pm, Compuware Sports Arena (7:30 pm via the internet
on; telecast by Schoolcraft College Sports Network).

The Spitfires come into this game having won all five games against Plymouth this so far this season in the eight-game regular season series.
WHO TO WATCH FOR WINDSOR: Three keys for Windsor’s success against Plymouth this season has been the play of goaltenders Kyle Knechtel (29, 3.56, .897) and Brad Topping (30, 3.67, .893) – a Windsor goaltender has been a star in every Spitfire victory against Plymouth so far this season. Another key has been the play of second-year centerman Cal O’Reilly (52, 17-41-58), who has scored a goal in every game this season against Plymouth. Spitfires boast firepower with the likes of David Lomas (28 goals), Ryan Garlock (26), John-Scott Dickson (21) and Steve Downie (16).

SUNDAY, FEB. 13 – PLYMOUTH at SAGINAW, 2:00 pm, Dow Event Center (1:45 pm, WSDS 1480-AM).

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