Plymouth sweeps Windsor on Labor Day weekend
For many people, Labor Day is a day of rest and relaxation and maybe a chance to see the Detroit International Jazz Festival downtown.
The Plymouth Whalers didn’t visit the festival, but they moved through the outskirts of it on the way home from Windsor on Labor Day.
The Whalers and Windsor Spitfires traditionally start their preseason schedule with a home-and-home series. The Whalers swept this season’s hard-bop with Windsor, winning 6-5 in Plymouth on Aug. 30, and then 3-2 in Windsor on Labor Day.
In the Labor Day game in Windsor, Tyler G. Brown’s power play goal at 18:40 of the second period gave the Whalers a 3-1 lead and Plymouth withstood a late Windsor rally. Plymouth’s hard work on Labor Day was rewarded with a well-earned victory.
“We battled,” said Plymouth head coach Greg Stefan. “The team played hard.”
Plymouth is now 2-0-0-0 in the preseason and Windsor is 0-2-0-0.
Patrick Lee (first of the preseason) and Vern Cooper (third) also scored for Plymouth. Dale Mitchell (first) and Richard Greenop (first) replied for Windsor.
Lee got the Whalers off to an excellent start when he scored at 24 seconds into the game, banking a shot from the right corner in the Windsor zone off of Spitfire starting goaltender Stephen Gleeson. Myles McCauley (Sterling Heights) drew the lone assist. Mitchell tied the game at 1-1 for Windsor on the power play at 12:20 of the first period when he snapped a shot from the slot over the shoulder of Plymouth starting goaltender Matt Hackett.
Cooper scored the prettiest goal of the game at 18:15 of the first period to give the Whalers a 2-1 lead when he skated into the Windsor zone with speed on the right wing, got a half-stride around Spitfire defenseman Ryan Ellis and beat Gleeson with the shot. Brown drew the lone assist on the goal.
“I picked the puck up in the neutral zone and noticed that Ellis was standing still,” Cooper said after the game. “I wheeled around him and took the puck to the net. There wasn’t much he could do. I was wheeling pretty fast.”
Cooper is off to a good start with three goals in two preseason games. He is eligible for the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
“It’s always nice to be off to a good start, especially with this year being my draft year,” Cooper said. “I just want to continue what I’m doing right now.”
Brown gave the Whalers a 3-1 lead in the second period when he scored through traffic in the middle of a scramble in front of the Windsor goal. Lee and rookie Jan Latal drew the helpers. Greenop tapped home a rebound in traffic in front of Plymouth backup goaltender Scott Wedgewood at 14:33 of the third period to cut the Plymouth lead to 3-2. Windsor coach Bob Boughner pulled backup netminder Ryan Carlisle in the final minute of play, but the Spits couldn’t find the equalizer.
Windsor outshot Plymouth, 38-30. Hackett stopped 22 of 23 shots he faced for the Whalers through the first 33:05; Wedgewood stopped 14 of 15 shots the rest of the way. Gleeson stopped 16 of 18 shots he faced for Windsor through the first 30:38; Carlisle stopped 11 of 12 the rest of the way.
In the opening game of the series, veteran Chris Terry (a goal and three assists) led the Plymouth attack with a four-point afternoon, while Vern Cooper scored twice and Ryan Hayes (a goal and an assist), Beau Schmitz and Kaine Geldart scored one each. Eric Wellwood scored twice for Windsor and Andrew Yogan, Greg Nemisz and Tyson Issac one each.
Schmitz scored an unassisted goal at 6:10 of the third period to give the Whalers a 4-3 lead - a lead they held the rest of the way. On the play, Schmitz (Plymouth’s first round pick in 2007) skated from neutral ice into the Windsor zone on the left wing, cut to the Windsor net from the left goal line and stuffed the puck past Windsor goaltender Stephen Gleeson.
Terry then gave the Whalers their first two-goal lead of the afternoon at 5-3 at 8:32 of the period when he redirected a rebound from a shot by RJ Mahalak (Monroe) past Gleeson.
Trailing 5-4 in the final minute of regulation, Windsor head coach Bob Boughner pulled goaltender Gleeson, but the Whalers broke up a Windsor rush in the Plymouth zone and Terry found Geldart breaking into Windsor territory for the empty-netter at 19:24.
Whalers play in Sarnia on Sept. 5, host the Sting at Compuware Arena on Sept. 6 at 2 p.m., the play London twice to complete the preseason - Fri. Sept. 12, in London and then Sat. Sept. 13, against the Knights at Strathroy, Ontario.