Whalers Shut Out Kitchener, Take Series Lead
PLYMOUTH - Scott Wedgewood stopped 32 shots while Andy Bathgate scored in the first period and Tom Wilson added a pair of third period goals as the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Kitchener Rangers, 3-0, in an Ontario Hockey League playoff game played Saturday night at Compuware Arena.
3,180 watched a game that will go down as one of the top playoff games ever seen at Compuware Arena.
Plymouth leads the best of seven series, three-games-to-two. Plymouth and Kitchener meet Sunday in Game 6 in Kitchener (6:50 pm, www.plymouthwhalers.com). If a seventh game is needed, it will be played Tuesday at Compuware Arena at 7:05 pm.
Tonight’s playoff game had everything that is good in a hockey game, starting and ending with plenty of excellent goaltending, between Kitchener’s John Gibson and Plymouth’s Wedgewood.
Gibson was named the game’s third star in stopping 45-of-47 Plymouth shots, with Wilson’s final goal coming on the empty net with 1:32 remaining. Gibson – an Anaheim draft who played for The United States in the 2012 World Junior Championships – has been named a star in four of the five games in the series. Wedgewood – a New Jersey draft who played for Canada in the 2012 World Junior Championships – pitched his second career OHL shutout, both in this series, as tonight’s first star.
Wedgewood is now second in the OHL playoffs with a 2.09 goals against average through 11 games; Gibson is third in the playoffs with a 2.10 goals against average through 10 games. Gibson leads the OHL playoffs with a 0.950 save percentage (384-for-404); Wedgewood is third at 0.935 (332-355).
Bathgate scored the only goal of the first period, a shorthanded effort at 9:47 of the first period. He skated into the Kitchener zone on the left wing and took a shot that seemed to carom off Cody Sol’s stick and went into the Rangers’ net, five-hole, past Gibson.
It looked for a long time like the Bathgate goal would stand as Wedgewood and Gibson were razor sharp. Perhaps Wedgewood’s best stop came on a Kitchener power play in the second period when Radek Faksa’s shot from the high slot deflected off a Plymouth stick and pinballed towards the right post. But Wedgewood stuck his pad out to make the save.
Plymouth has a history of winning third periods and outshot Kitchener, 18-10, in the final period. Wilson gave the Whalers some insurance at 11:49, capping off pressure in the Kitchener zone by batting home a rebound through traffic. Linemates Rickard Rakell and Matt Mistele - who played a strong game tonight for Plymouth - drew assists.
Kitchener called a time-out with 2:07 left a pulled Gibson for the extra attacker, but Wilson foiled the strategy, diving to bat the puck out of his own zone past a Kitchener point man, then picking up the puck in neutral ice and scoring on the empty net.
Depth continues to play a role in the series. Plymouth - playing without leading playoff scorer Stefan Noesen - received excellent games from Mistele and Cody Payne. Kitchener used the forward line of Michael Catenacci, Tobias Rieder and Ben Thomson liberally tonight; Rieder and Catennaci were both -2 and Thomson was -3. The Rangers' lead defensive pairing - Ryan Murphy and Cody Sol - were -2 and -3, respectively.
The Rangers depth was tested tonight and perhaps for the rest of the series when Andrew Crescenzi left the game in the first period and did not return.
Plymouth outshot, Kitchener, 48-32.
The winner of this series will move on to face London, who eliminated Saginaw, 5-3 tonight, winning the series in six games.
MORE COVERAGE - Josh Brown, Kitchener-Waterloo Record.