Whalers Roll to a 5-0 Victory Over Oshawa
OSHAWA - Plymouth goaltender Matt Mahalak collects a puck from every game he records a shutout and every game he registers an assist. Tonight at General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Mahalak added two pucks to his collection.
Mahalak recorded his second Ontario Hockey League shutout and added an assist as the Whalers pulled away from the Oshawa Generals, 5-0, before 4,133 Friday night at General Motors Centre.
Plymouth wins their fifth straight game, 13th out of its last 15 and is 15-2-0-1 since Oct. 29. The Whalers (now 22-8-2-1, 47 points) remain in first place in the OHL's West Division and is second overall in the Western Conference. All the other top teams in the conference won - #1 London (now 25-7-0-1, 51 points) defeated Guelph, 3-1; #3 Kitchener (22-9-1-0, 45 points) beat Sault Ste. Marie, 3-2 in a shootout: and #4 Sarnia (now 19-9-1-4, 43 points) beat Owen Sound, 5-3.
Mahalak's only other OHL shutout also came against Oshawa on Jan. 29, 2011 at Compuware Arena in a 4-0 Plymouth victory. In all, Mahalak has stopped all 66 shots he's ever faced against the Generals.
Mahalak is back on top of the league's goaltending race, leading the OHL with a 1.89 goals against average and 0.939 save percentage.
Mahalak had plenty of help, however, as everyone who wore a Plymouth jersey tonight contributed to the victory. Andy Bathgate led the Whalers offensive attack, opening and closing the scoring with a pair of power play goals (11-12). Rickard Rakell (17), Alex Aleardi (17) and Stefan Noesen (11) scored one goal each. Jamie Devane and Garrett Meurs contributed two assists each.
Defensively, Plymouth did an excellent job on Oshawa sniper Christian Thomas, who had one good scoring chance in the game - and it came in the third period with the outcome decided.
The best Oshawa scoring chance came midway through the first period with Plymouth ahead, 1-0. Daniel Maggio's point shot was re-directed into the Plymouth net, but referees Tom Sweeney and Dave Lewis waved the goal off. Their decision - the puck was batted in with a high stick - stood after video review.
Meanwhile, Bathgate got Plymouth going at 10:49 of the first period, snapping home a rebound on the right wing side of the Oshawa goal with a shot that beat Generals goaltender Kevin Bailie. Meurs set up Rakell at 15:24 of the period to give Plymouth a 2-0 lead, skating to the right corner deep inthe Oshawa zone and feeding Rakell at the right hashmark. Bailie got 98 percent of Rakell's hard one-timer, but the puck trickled over the line.
Plymouth got stronger as the first period went on and outshot Oshawa, 16-5, in the first period.
Aleardi gave Plymouth a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period, using his typical speed. Mahalak directed the puck at the left goal line in the Plymouth zone to Nick Malysa, who found Aleardi streaking up the right wing through neutral ice. Aleardi worked around an Oshawa defenseman, cut to the left hash mark and tucked a backhand by Bailie.
The Whalers kept coming in the third period. The Rakell-Noesen-Meurs line played well all night and Meurs stole the puck from an Oshawa defenseman and had a shot at the lower rim of the left circle. Instead, Meurs fed the puck across to Noesen, who snapped the puck home at 3:25. Bathgate completed the scoring, snapping the puck through a Devane screen in front that pinged off Bailie's stick and into the goal at 13:27.
Plymouth outshot Oshawa, 36-30.
The Whalers remain on the road Saturday in Belleville against the Bulls (7pm, 88.1FM, www.plymouthwhalers.com).
HEADING TO WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: Rickard Rakell and Dario Trutmann will leave Saturday to join their teams for the upcoming World Junior Championships - Rakell in his second year with Team Sweden and Trutmann in his second year with Team Switzerland.
Scott Wedgewood has already been named to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships. Austin Levi and J.T. Miller are away with the United States team.
With Wedgewood away, Darien Ekblad remains with the Whalers as the team's second goaltender with Mahalak. And 16-year-old defenseman Mitch Jones is available for duty.