PLYMOUTH – Rickard Rakell scored on a deflection in the second period as the Plymouth Whalers built a 2-0 lead and went on the defeat the Windsor Spitfires, 2-1, in an Ontario Hockey League game played before a sellout crowd of 4,029 Friday night at Compuware Arena.
Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops throughout the Metropolitan-Detroit area reserve this weekend every season to attend Whaler games at Compuware Arena and the scouts were treated to a typical close Plymouth-Windsor battle.
The Whalers have won two straight games and four of its last five to reach a season-high record of 9-8-1-1. Windsor is now 11-8-0-1.
First star Robbie Czarnik scored the other Plymouth goal in the first period, his eighth of the season. Tom Kuhnhackl (11th) scored the lone Windsor goal in the second period.
Plymouth goaltender and New Jersey Devils prospect Scott Wedgewood won his third straight start as the game’s second star, stopping 36-of-37 shots. Windsor goaltender and Dallas Stars prospect Jack Campbell stopped 30-of-32 shots as the game’s third star.
Besides Wedgewood, the Whalers also received a blue-collar effort defensively from every one on the hockey club, especially defensemen Beau Schmitz and Carolina prospect Austin Levi, who were often on the ice the same time as Buffalo prospect Zack Kassian, Windsor’s leader in points with 26. Kassian assisted on Kuhnhackl’s goal, but that was it.
“It’s tough,” Levi said about playing against Kassian. “He’s a really big guy (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), so you try to contain him defensively, push him along the boards. You can’t run at him too much, because he’s got a lot of strength and he’ll spin off of you. But if you can contain him, then you might have some success against him.”
Offensively, Plymouth continues to receive good work from the line of Czarnik, Rakell and Stefan Noesen. Czarnik scored the only goal of the first period, taking the puck off Windsor forward Stephen Johnston and scoring from the right circle past Campbell at 14:31.
“I lifted his stick before the puck got out of the zone and brought it back in and shot low-blocker side,” Czarnik said of his goal. “Noesen was going across the net and I figured I’d shoot it back where he came from. So I shot it to the opposite side.”
Plymouth led, 1-0, after one period.
Although Czarnik was credited with the Plymouth‘s second goal – on a power play at 9:13 of the second period – Czarnik said it was Rakell’s goal. The marker came from hard work by the line in the Windsor zone, as they won several scrums along the boards and kept the play alive in the offensive zone for at least 20 seconds. The puck moved to Levi at the left point and his low shot was tipped at the hashmarks by Rakell.
“The goal was Rickard’s,” Czarnik said. “As a line, we all work hard in the defensive and offensive zones. We get pucks in deep on the forecheck and cycle well and get shots. Nobody cares who scores on the line – it’s about just scoring for the team.”
Kuhnhackl cut the Plymouth lead to 2-1 at 10:54 of the second period on the shot from the slot trough traffic that Wedgewood got most of, but the puck trickled over the goal line.
That the way the score ended. Windsor pressured in the third period, outshooting Plymouth, 14-8, but the Whalers battled. Plymouth’s Mitchell Heard received a roughing penalty at 17:48 and Windsor had coach Bob Jones pulled Campbell with 1:10 left, but the Whalers blocked their share of shots to end the game with the puck deep in Plymouth territory.
“Everyone was paying a price,” Czarnik said of the final two minutes. “You could tell in the last ten seconds when they (Windsor) had the puck around our net, everyone was diving in front of the puck, trying to keep it out of the net.”
Windsor outshot Plymouth, 37-32.
Another sizeable crowd is expected Saturday night when Plymouth hosts Kitchener at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena (6:45pm, 88.1FM WSDP). Tickets for all Plymouth Whalers games are available by calling (734) 453-8400.