PLYMOUTH – After winning in Sarnia on Friday and losing to Erie last night, the Plymouth Whalers – challenging the Guelph Storm for home ice advantage in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs – played the Saginaw Spirit today with a chance to move into a tie for fourth place with the Storm.
Mission accomplished, at least for a few hours as Plymouth defeated Saginaw, 4-1, before 2,421 Sunday afternoon at Compuware Arena. The victory moves Plymouth (now 31-23-5-0, 67 points) into a temporary tie with Guelph (30-21-4-0, 67 points). Guelph plays in Sault Ste. Marie tonight.
Veteran Matt Caria assisted on all four Plymouth goals and goaltender Matt Hackett rebounded from being lifted last night in the first period in a 7-4 loss to Erie with 30 saves as the game’s first star. Tyler Seguin (16), Ryan Hayes (23), Chris Terry (team-leading 34th) and Kaine Geldart (10th) scored for Plymouth. Jack Combs (28th) scored the lone Saginaw goal.
The Whalers scored the only goal of the first period and it came in transition when Caria hit Chris Terry with a pass on the left wing in the Saginaw zone and he found Seguin skating hard to the front of the goal. Terry threaded the puck from the left circle out in front to Seguin, who made no mistake in directing the shot past Saginaw goaltender Edward Pasquale at 3:20.
Plymouth took a 2-0 lead at 6:57 of the second period with the teams skating four-on-four. Whalers defenseman Beau Schmitz lifted a shot from the right point that was directed by Ryan Hayes from the right circle past Pasquale. The turning point of the game came in the final seconds of the second period when Caria picked the puck in his own zone, skating through neutral ice and found Terry breaking into the Saginaw zone on the left wing. Terry buried a low shot from the left circle past Pasquale.
Combs scored a shorthanded goal at 3:39 of the third period when he broke in all alone from center ice and – after several fakes – stuffed the puck from outside the blue crease past Hackett. Trailing 3-1 in the final minute of play, Saginaw head coach Todd Watson pulled Pasquale for the extra attacker, but Geldart scored on the empty net from the right boards in neutral territory with 0:37 left to ice the victory for the Whalers.
Plymouth outshot Saginaw, 45-31.
The Whalers are on the road for their next four games – Wednesday in Saginaw, Friday in Kitchener, Saturday in Erie and Mon. Mar.2 in Owen Sound before returning home Fri. Mar. 6 against Windsor. Tickets for all Plymouth Whalers games are available by calling (734) 453-8400.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)