Matt Mahalak Pitches First OHL Shutout in 4-0 Win Over Oshawa
PLYMOUTH - Matt Mahalak stopped 36 shots to record his first Ontario Hockey League shutout as the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Oshawa Generals, 4-0, before 2,310 at Compuware Arena on Saturday night.
Tyler Brown (19), James Livingston (12), RJ Mahalak (5 - Matt's brother), and Jamie Devane (9) all scored for the Whalers (now 27-18-1-3), who moved into a tie with Windsor for fourth place in the OHL's Western Conference race.
Oshawa is now 25-14-4-4, good for fourth place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference race.
Plymouth took five out of a possible six points this weekend in dramatic fashion, winning a shootout, 5-4, in Windsor on Thursday night, losing a 6-5 shootout to Niagara on Friday and - in spite of playing three games in three nights - showed excellent energy tonight from the goal out for the entire sixty minutes.
But the story was Matt Mahalak, who has improved over the last month of the season. With tonight’s shutout, Mahalak has a 1.36 goals against average and .962 save percentage over his last four appearances.
“It’s amazing,” he said after the game. “All the hard work has definitely been paying off over the past few months. We had the whole team going tonight. My brother’s out there blocking shots in the third period. It’s great to see everyone battling for me.”
The Whalers and Oshawa played one of the more entertaining games this season at Compuware Arena, skating hard all night in a game that featured good flow, end-to-end rushes on both sides and few whistles. Neither team played anything close to a trap.
Brown got Plymouth rolling during the game’s first shift, finishing off an excellent passing play with linemates Robbie Czarnik and RJ Mahalak just 28 seconds into the game. Mahalak – on the left wing in the Oshawa zone, found Czarnik on the right side and he found Brown out in front of General goaltender Peter Di Salvo.
“One of the keys to the game was to come with a good start,” Matt Mahalak said. “We scored a goal in the first shift and carried on through the rest of the game.”
Oshawa outshot Plymouth, 7-4, in the first period.
Livingston gave Plymouth a 2-0 lead at 1:42 of the second period, converting Mitchell Heard's feed from behind the net to tuck a backhand by Di Salvo. RJ Mahalak gave Plymouth a 3-0 lead on a power play at 13:28 when Czarnik worked out of the left corner in the Oshawa zone and found Garrett Meurs at the left wing half-wall. Meurs waited patiently and passed alertly to Mahalak, who wasted no time snapping the puck past Di Salvo from the hash marks.
Oshawa outshot Plymouth, 18-7, in the third period, but the Whaler defenders and Mahalak were up to the task. Oshawa head coach Chris DePiero pulled Di Salvo with 1:20 remaining and the Generals having a six-on-three manpower advantage with Plymouth defenseman Austin Levi off interference at 17:47 and Brown whistled for delay of game at 18:40.
But the puck squirted to neutral territory and Devane beat everyone down the ice to score on the empty net.
The only issue left at that point was to get Mahalak’s shutout. Mahalak made a spectacular stop on Oshawa’s Scott Valentine with about eight seconds left. Mahalak then made saves over the final six seconds on Valentine and Josh Graves to preserve the shutout.
Mahalak was asked if any one save stood out from the others he made on a special night.
“The last two – the shot from the point (by Valentine) and the rebound (by Graves). There’s about a second left and if it (the puck) would have gone in, I would have been crushed, so I got the pad out and was ecstatic.”
Although Mahalak has worked very hard to improve over the past couple of months, he was quick to give credit to others.
“I owe a lot to (goaltending coach) Stan Matwijiw and to (fellow goaltender) Scott Wedgewood for helping me out,” Mahalak said. “I had a few shaky starts at the beginning of the year, but all the extra ice and all the hard work and listening to Stan and to Wedge helped me improve every day. It’s starting to show.”
Suddenly, Whalers head coach Mike Vellucci has a pleasant problem with both Wedgewood and Mahalak playing well. It’s a headache he doesn’t mind having.
Plymouth plays in Sarnia on Thursday (6:45pm, 88.1FM WSDP) and in Kitchener on Friday before returning home to host Sarnia next Saturday at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena. ickets are available by calling (734) 453-8400.