Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whalers gearing up for '09-10 season

Thunderstorms in Florida forced NASA to call off the shuttle Discovery’s launch into space Tuesday.

But there are no delays around the start of another Ontario Hockey League season, with all 20 teams reporting to training camps this week.

Enthusiasm is high as the Whalers report back to Plymouth. Several players got a jump-start to the season by working hockey schools earlier this month.

Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett had a smile on his face as he strolled into the rink. As he prepares to play for the Minnesota Wild in the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City from September 6-10, he didn’t talk about himself.

Tyler’s (Seguin) really flying, isn’t he?” Hackett said simply.

Seguin helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament earlier this month, leading the tournament in scoring with four goals and six assists for ten points over four games.

Seguin’s early start to a new season augers well for the Whalers.

Now starting his third season, Tyler G. Brown (pictured) is one of the early reporting veterans who worked the Whalers hockey schools earlier this month. He enjoyed himself as the schools wore on.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping kids out,” Brown said. “It’s nice putting a smile on their face and making sure they enjoy their time here with the Whalers.”

Brown looks a little bigger to start a new season.

“I definitely did a lot of work over the summer,” he said. “I worked out on the golf course, so it was a lot of labor, but overall, it was a good summer. I got a lot of things done and worked on a lot of things I wanted to work on.”

Brown was involved in a turning point during the Whalers last game played, on April 11 in Game Six of the Western Conference semifinals against Windsor at Compuware Arena. The Whalers – facing elimination – were trailing 3-1 early in the third period when Brown scored a shorthanded goal that was waved off. Matt Caria scored a few minutes later to cut the deficit to 3-2, but Brown’s disallowed goal could have made a difference.

Plymouth was eliminated in a 4-2 decision to the Spitfires.

“I wish the goal would have counted,” Brown said. “It would have given us more of a chance in the series and given us more confidence. But it happened, so we’re looking forward to getting back to the playoffs and going at Windsor again this year.

“We still have a young core this year, but we’re feeling pretty confident. We can keep up with any team in the league.”

Brown was asked what he wanted to improve upon in 2009-10.

“I was more of a defensive player (eight goals and 13 assists) last year, so I’d like to be more offensive this year," Brown said. "It’s nice to be relied on defensively, but I want to put up more points and be more of a leader on the ice.”

RJ Mahalak (Monroe) is another third-year forward looking to pick up the pace.

“Our older guys have been together for a couple of years now, so (hopefully) we’ll gel pretty well,” Mahalak said. “I want to step it up offensively. I definitely need to put the puck in the net more and try to set some more guys up. I want to be more of a contributor and not a grinder.”

Mahalak likes the make-up of the 2009-10 Whalers.

“It seems like we have a real good mix,” Mahalak said. “We have a few older guys on offense and a lot of young guys on offense, too. We should be solid defensively as well.”

The Whalers participate in off-ice testing on Wednesday. The Whalers hit the ice in scrimmages on Thursday and Friday from 9-11am and 2-4pm on both days.

On Saturday, Plymouth plays Saginaw in “The Battle of Brighton” at the Kensington Valley Ice House against Saginaw and then on Sunday, the Whalers are hosting their first-ever alumni game at 2:30 p.m. at Compuware Arena.

Photo by Walt Dmoch


No comments: