Sunday, March 19, 2006

Plymouth takes West Division crown

Story courtesy of the Canadian Press and photos by Walt Dmoch.

Evan Brophey scored 3:29 into overtime as the Plymouth Whalers edged the Saginaw Spirit, 3-2, Saturday night at the Compuware Sports Arena.

The victory clinched the West Division title for Plymouth (35-28-1-4).

As the second seed in the Western Conference, the Whalers will face the seventh-seeded Windsor Spitfires in the first round of the OHL Playoffs, beginning next weekend.

"I saw John Vigilante coming into the zone and cutting across the middle," said Brophey of the winning goal (above). "Their goaltender (Francois Thuot) made a great glove save, but I went looking for the rebound. I kept digging and it came loose."

The Spirit protested that Thuot had controlled it long enough to get a whistle but referees Pat Smola and Darcy Burchell let the goal stand.

"Sometimes the breaks just don't go your way," shrugged Saginaw captain Patrick McNeill, who set up Michal Birner's dramatic tying power-play goal with just one second left in regulation.

Saginaw (36-30-2-0) had trailed 2-0 in the third period before scoring a pair of power-play goals, with Tim Priamo netting the first one.

"It was pretty crazy at that point," stated McNeill about the late regulation goal. "I really didn't know what to think at that point."

Plymouth got second-period goals from John Armstrong and Andrew Fournier.

"It's a great win for us," said Brophey. "The home ice advantage will be big, because Windsor plays very well in their barn. We're glad to be heading into the playoffs on a good note."

Saginaw, who finished with the fifth seed in Western Conference, will face the fourth-seeded Guelph Storm in the first round.

"It should be a good series," said McNeill. "They're a fast skating team and we are, too."

Plymouth defenseman Mike Letizia was taken off the ice on a stretcher (below) after getting boarded in the second period. He was alert and walking around after the game, but said he didn't remember the hit.

The Plymouth-Windsor playoff series (* if necessary):

Game 1 - Sat. 3/25 - Windsor at Plymouth, 7:30 pm.
Game 2 - Sun. 3/26 - Plymouth at Windsor, 7:00 pm.
Game 3 - Tues. 3/28 - Windsor at Plymouth, 7:30 pm.
Game 4 - Thurs. 3/30 - Plymouth at Windsor, 7:30 pm.
Game 5 - Sat. 4/1 - Windsor at Plymouth, 7:30 pm. *
Game 6 - Sun, 4/2 – Plymouth at Windsor, 7:00 pm. *
Game 7 - Tues, 4/4 – Windsor at Plymouth, 7:30 pm. *

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