Whalers Play in the Soo on Friday, Host Belleville on Saturday
Photo - Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci speaks to his team during a time-out in Wyandotte on September 1.
PLYMOUTH - There's plenty of optimism around the Ontario Hockey League as the puck drops on the 2012-13 season Thursday with four games around the league.
The Whalers open the season on Friday in Sault Ste. Marie (7 pm, www.plymouthwhalers.com) before returning home Saturday for the home opener at Compuware Arena against Belleville at 7:05 pm (6:45 pm, www.plymouthwhalers.com, 88.1 FM WSDP The Park).
Not only are the Whalers primed to be in the thick of the competitive Western Conference race again, Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci is reaching an important coaching milestone.
Vellucci - the winningest coach in the history of the franchise - comes into the weekend two wins shy of 400. His overall coaching record is 398-256-36, for a .603 winning percentage.
Vellucci is third among active coaches in the OHL with 398 wins, trailing Belleville's George Burnett (517) and Brampton's Stan Butler (504).
And while Vellucci and associate Joe Stefan prepare the Whalers for this weekend's action, there's plenty of media previews abbout the Whalers and the rest of the OHL.
Tim Smith of the Plymouth Observer and Eccentric has a preview of the Whalers. Smith writes:
Year after year, it seems Mike Vellucci merely reloads his Plymouth Whalers roster for another shot at supremacy in the Ontario Hockey League.
And the 2012-13 team should have no trouble continuing that trend, with an enviable mix of seasoned OHL veterans and uber-talented newcomers to the Whalers.
They are a lock to make it to the playoffs a 22nd consecutive spring.
“I think people will tell you we're the favorite in our conference and I wouldn't shy away from it,” said Vellucci, whose 12th season as head coach opens Friday night at Sault Ste. Marie. “That's something we should embrace and I would agree with it.
“We have some very good firepower up front, good defense now that we made a few changes and our goaltender has been strong. I think we've shored up in all three areas now. We just got to bring the consistency every night.”
George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press and David Goricki of the Detroit News are preparing Plymouth previews as well. Look for those previews Friday or Saturday.
WHALERS SEVENTH IN FIRST CHL RANKINGS: Plymouth is rated seventh overall in the initial BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Ratings.
ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE ANNOUNCES CHANGES: The Ontario Hockey League announce several changes for the upcoming season concerning discipline with fighting and other matters.