Monday, May 14, 2007

Neal's heroics give Whalers OHL crown

The Plymouth Whalers are Ontario Hockey League champions.

James Neal’s goal at 3:22 of overtime snapped a 2-2 tie and gives Plymouth a 3-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 5,738 at the Sudbury Community Arena in Game 6 of the OHL Rogers Championship Series. The Whalers eliminated Sudbury in the series, four games to two, and win the J. Ross Robertson Trophy.

Plymouth advances to the Canadian Hockey League’s 2007 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Vancouver, B.C. and will face the host Vancouver Giants this Friday at 9 p.m. EDT in the opening game of the tournament. The game will be broadcast on

The Whalers came from behind to defeat the Wolves. After a scoreless first period, Justin Donati opened the scoring for Sudbury 29 seconds into the second period when he batted home a loose puck past Plymouth goaltender Michal Neuvirth for his team-leading 14th goal of the playoffs.

Plymouth came back to take their first lead of the game in the third period. The Whalers were working on two-man advantage to start the third period and Tom Sestito tied the game with his 11th goal of the playoffs at the 18-second mark of the period when he deflected Neal’s shot from the high slot past Sudbury goaltender Sebastian Dahm. The Whalers took their first lead of the game, again on the power play, when Sean O’Connor tipped Jared Boll’s shot from the left corner past Dahm at 6:15. Sudbury tied the game with a power play goal of their own at 13:25 of the third period when Nick Foligno capped good Sudbury pressure in the Plymouth zone with a one-timer from the hash marks past Neuvirth.

The set the stage for Neal’s goal, which came after Evan Brophey skated the puck from the right faceoff circle behind the Sudbury net and found Neal out in front. Neal made no mistake with a hard shot from the hash marks past Dahm for this team-leading 13th goal of the post season.

Plymouth outshot Sudbury, 43-25, in the game.

Sudbury captain and the OHL's top defenseman, Marc Staal, was named playoffs MVP.

Plymouth’s championship is the second in their 17-year history. The Whalers won the OHL title in 1995 and lost in the finals in 1994, 2000 and 2001.

The Sudbury Star has more on Game 6 HERE.

Photo by Natalie Beauchamp

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