Friday, February 04, 2005

Whalers play two this weekend

The Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers come into this weekend’s action in first place in the OHL West Division with a record of 21-20-5-3, three points ahead of the second place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (20-23-6-1) with a game in hand.

Plymouth and Sault Ste. Marie both play two games this weekend. The Greyhounds will host Belleville tonight and Mississauga on Saturday night at the Sault Memorial Gardens.

Here’s a closer look at the Whalers’ two games this weekend:

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4 – PLYMOUTH (21-20-5-3) at KITCHENER (24-12-6-4), 7:30 pm, Kitchener Memorial Auditorium (7:15 pm, WSDS 1480-AM).

Although Kitchener holds a 2-1 edge over Plymouth in three previous games this season, the Whalers hold a 13-12-2 edge in regular season and playoff games since former Plymouth general manager and head coach Peter DeBoer and assistant Steve Spott left for Kitchener in 2001.

Kitchener comes into the game banged up, with captain Mike Richards (groin), Patrick Davis (Detroit) and Justin Azevedo - among others - missing last Sunday’s 3-3 tie with Ottawa. Rangers’ leading scorer and Detroit Red Wing draft Evan McGrath (18 goals with 41 assists for 59 points) along with veteran David Clarkson (23-13-36) have a history of playing well against Plymouth. Veteran Andre Benoit, the WHA's Detroit Gladiators first-round pick last summer, (19-35-54) leads all OHL defensemen in scoring. Kitchener is led in net by Atlanta Thrashers’ draft Dan Turple (33 games, 3.02 goals against, .903 save percentage), who beat Plymouth, 4-2, on Dec. 4 at the Compuware Sports Arena.

WHO’S HOT FOR PLYMOUTH: Plymouth veteran John Mitchell (20-35-55) was Plymouth’s leading scorer in January with 7 goals and 12 assists for 19 points – including an eight-point weekend last week over three games. Mitchell is currently 9th overall in franchise career scoring with 210 points. John Vigilante (16-27-43) was second in January with 5 goals and 11 assists for 16 points over 13 games. Young guns James Neal (15-21-36) and Dan Collins (18-16-34) are ranked 20th and 23rd overall by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau in the mid-term ranking for North American players. Defenseman Steve Ward (4-8-12) scored three goals last weekend and comes into this week playing his best hockey of the season. Goaltender Ryan Nie (2.44, .921 in 43 games) played in the OHL All-Star Classic Wednesday night and has a history of paying well in Kitchener.

SATURDAY, FEBURARY 5 – TORONTO ST. MICHAEL’S MAJORS (18-24-4-2) at PLYMOUTH, 7:30 pm, Compuware Sports Arena (7:30 pm,, tape delayed by Schoolcraft Sports Network television).

The Whalers and Majors play twice per season, with St. Mike’s defeating Plymouth, 2-1, Dec. 17 in Toronto. Majors come into the game playing their third game as in many nights.

Goaltender Justin Peters (2.82, .907 in 44 games) played well in Toronto’s win over Plymouth in December. Majors need Peters to play well as they are the lowest-scoring team in the OHL with 111 goals in 48 games. To try to inject offense in the Toronto lineup, Director of Hockey Operations and Head Coach Bud Stefanski acquired twins Justin and Tyler Donati from Oshawa at the OHL trading deadline and they have been moderately successful with 20 and 32 points respectively.

After Saturday’s game, the entire Whaler team will be signing autographs around the National Hockey League rink at the Compuware Sports Arena.

The Whalers are averaging 3,200 fans per game through 24 home dates. Plenty of tickets are available for Plymouth’s remaining ten home games this season by calling the Compuware Sports Arena box office at (734) 453-8400.

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