Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Plymouth and Saginaw rivalry continues

The Plymouth Whalers (29-21-2-2) face three important Western Conference opponents this week as the Ontario Hockey League season moves into the final six weeks of the regular season.

Wednesday – Sarnia (30-21-2-0) at Plymouth (29-21-2-2), 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena. The Whalers have not defeated Sarnia in three games this season and Sarnia star Steven Stamkos has a lot to do with it. Stamkos, rated the top North American prospect by the National Hockey League's Central Scouting Bureau, is becoming a Whaler killer. He has four goals and an assist in three games this season against Plymouth and has 42 goals with 38 assists for 80 points in 46 games overall.

WHAT TO WATCH WITH THE WHALERS: While veterans Jeremy Smith, Wes Cunningham, Chris Terry, Andrew Fournier, AJ Jenks and Brett Bellemore lead the Whalers in ice time, Plymouth head coach Greg Stefan is starting to depend on some of the younger Whalers as the season wears on. Second-year forwards Vern Cooper and Kaine Geldart and rookie wingers Tyler J. Brown and Tyler G. Brown, among others, are starting to see ice time in all situations as the Whalers try to balance winning while developing their young group.

There’s a good chance Stefan will not be behind the bench this week. The Ontario Hockey league suspended Stefan, along with Kingston head coach Larry Mavety, after a fight-filled third period last Sunday in Kingston’s 7-4 victory over the Whalers at the Kingston Memorial Centre. If Stefan is not behind the bench, assistants Joe Stefan and Brian Sommariva will work behind the Plymouth bench.

Friday – Plymouth at Saginaw (25-21-4-2), 7:11 p.m., Dow Event Center. The rivalry between the Whalers and Spirit continues to grow with Plymouth winning three of the five games played so far this season. Saginaw’s offense revolves around veterans Jack Combs (34-47--81), Ryan McDonough (36-27--73) and Tomas Zaborsky (25-27--52).

Saturday – Kitchener (40-9-1-2) at Plymouth, 7:05 p.m, Compuware Arena. The Whalers bring in the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League during Hockey Day in Michigan. During the game, the Whalers will be celebrating Hockey Day in Michigan by honoring the Compuware Youth House program, also known as the I-275 League, as the Compuware AAA '98s, who won the Whitby Silver Stick tournament earlier this season.

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