Monday, December 31, 2007

Whalers host top-ranked Rangers today

The Plymouth Whalers close out 2007 with a New Year’s Eve date at 4 p.m. at Compuware Arena against the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers (28-4-1-2) are the top team in the Ontario Hockey League and the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.

Monday’s game is the first time the Whalers have ever played at home on New Year’s Eve. In 1993, the Whalers (then known as Detroit Jr. Red Wings) defeated Kingston, 7-4, at the Kingston Memorial Centre in the only other game that Plymouth has played on New Year’s Eve.

The Whalers are offering an added bonus for fans purchasing a $14 or $10 ticket. Fans will be allowed to skate free of charge on the Compuware Arena ice from 2-3:30 p.m.

The Whalers (19-11-2-2) come into Monday’s game winless over their last four games. Kitchener has defeated Plymouth twice in Kitchener – 1-0 in overtime on Sept. 29 and 3-1 on Oct. 30.

Both teams are missing players at the 2008 World Junior Championship currently being played in the Czech Republic. Plymouth goaltender Jeremy Smith is backstopping the United States to a 3-0 record through Sunday and defenseman Michal Jordan (Czech Republic) is one of the youngest players in this year’s tournament. Kitchener is missing Yannick Weber (Switzerland), Matt Halischuk (Canada) and Mikkel Boedker (Denmark).

Both teams have plenty of firepower available for Monday’s game. The Whalers are led offensively by Carolina draft pick Chris Terry (25-37-62), veteran Andrew Fournier (21-23-44) and Wolverine Lake native AJ Jenks (20-12-32). Kitchener features Justin Azevedo (19-46-65), Nazem Kadri (10-21-31) and Mike Duco (13-13-26). Josh Unice – passed over by Team USA for the World Junior Championship in favor of Smith – has a 2.21 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 26 games this season.

After today's game, the Whalers hit the road on Thursday in Windsor and Friday at Sault Ste. Marie before returning home Saturday against Guelph.

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