Thursday, February 25, 2010

D-man Schmitz stepping up for Plymouth

Generally, Plymouth Whalers defenseman Beau Schmitz doesn’t say much, but his game and talent speaks volumes.

Statistically, there are defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League who have more points than Schmitz’s eight goals and 22 assists for 30 points this season. There are d-men who have a better rating than Schmitz’s +12. There are plenty of guys who are bigger than Schmitz.

But there aren’t too many players in the league who skate as well as Schmitz. And with a year of OHL experience under his belt, Schmitz is learning to pick his spots when to join the rush and when to stay back.

As a result, he’s playing with confidence, getting more ice time, having fun and helping the Whalers win.

“I think I’m moving up more on the rush, in a smart way – instead of being the first guy leading the rush, I’m more the third or fourth guy in the rush,” Schmitz said. “It’s an improvement I’ve made over the last year.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, so if I do jump into the rush, I certainly have to get back.”

Plymouth associate coach Joe Stefan appreciates Schmitz’s development.

“I think he’s grown up this year, in terms of maturity,” Stefan said. “He’s become accustomed to the league this year. It took him a little while, coming from the National Team Development Program. I think he’s more comfortable in the environment this year.”

With veteran defensemen Michal Jordan and Josh Bemis out with injuries and considered day-to-day, the Whalers have asked more from Schmitz and the rest of the defensemen.

“With our current injuries, Beau has taken more of a leadership role,” Stefan said. “He really likes the ice time and has elevated his game with Jordan and Bemis out.”

Schmitz has a penchant for scoring big goals this season. He scored the shootout winner on October 2 in Sudbury in a 6-5 win at the Community Arena, scored the overtime game-winner December 28 in the Whalers’ 3-2 victory over Erie and then scored twice (including the game-winner) last Saturday in Plymouth’s 5-2 victory over Sarnia.

At 12-3-0-1 since January 16, the Whalers move into the end of February as one of the hottest teams in the OHL. The goal is to keep playing that way into the playoffs.

“Everyone’s been playing well,” Schmitz said. “Everyone’s been playing their role, so we have to keep it up (now) and then into the playoffs. It’s playoff hockey from here on out.”

The Whalers play in Windsor on Thursday (6:45pm, 88.1FM, WSDP) before returning home Saturday to host Guelph at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena. While the Whalers take on the Storm, the game marks the return of Mascot Madness, as mascots for several corporate partners of the Whalers will get together for a hockey game during the second intermission.

LOOKING AT WINDSOR: The Spits (45-10-0-5) come into Thursday’s game after losing, 8-5, to Barrie on Saturday. The Colts are now the top team in the OHL with a record of 48-8-0-2, good for 96 points, one more than Windsor.

“So far, they are the better team,” Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner told the Windsor Star. “They outhustled us in all areas.”

After Scott Timmins opened the scoring for Windsor, Darren Archibald, Alex Hutchings and Alex Pietrangelo countered for the Colts. Timmins closed the gap to 3-2 in the second period, but Archibald, Matt Kennedy and Kyle Clifford made it 6-2.

Bryan Cameron pushed Barrie’s lead to 7-2 before Marc Cantin, Greg Nemisz and Stephen Johnston scored in a span of 2:20 to pull Windsor to within two goals with less than five minutes left in a regulation, but Hutchings scored his second into an empty net with goaltender Troy Passingham on the bench and Windsor shorthanded to close it for the Colts.

LOOKING AT GUELPH: The Storm (27-28-3-1) host Peterborough on Friday before playing the Whalers on Saturday. Guelph still has playoff aspirations. Guelph won two-out-of-three last weekend, capping the weekend with a 5-2 win in Sault Ste. Marie at the Essar Centre on Sunday after losing to Sudbury the evening before and defeating Kitchener last Friday.

“I thought we played a lot harder than we did in Sudbury - more like the Kitchener game,” Guelph lead assistant coach Chris Hajt told the Guelph Mercury. “We got second, third and fourth efforts from everyone. It was great to see.”

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