Plymouth’s James Livingston (blue 26) scores in the second period Saturday to tie the game at 1-1. Plymouth went on to win, 5-2, Saturday night at Compuware Arena.
PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Whalers exploded for three unanswered goals in the second period to overcome a 1-0 deficit and the Whalers went on to defeat the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 5-2, in an Ontario Hockey League playoff game played Saturday before 2,743 at Compuware Arena.
The best-four-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarterfinal series is tied at one game apiece, with games 3 and 4 set for next Tuesday and Wednesday at the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Plymouth received excellent offensive balance in the game, with first star Phil McRae, second star AJ Jenks and third star Tyler Seguin all scoring a goal and an assist. James Livingston and Joe Gaynor scored the other Plymouth goals. Whalers goaltender Scott Wedgewood replaced starter Matt Hackett at the start of the second period and was also instrumental in the victory in stopping 11-of-12 shots over the final forty minutes.
Jake Carrick and Vern Cooper scored for Sault Ste. Marie.
Carrick scored the only goal of the first period for the Soo, converting Brandon Archibald’s shot from the right point in batting home the rebound past Hackett at 16:24.
Plymouth took the game over in the decisive second period, outshooting the ‘Hounds, 21-5.
“We started to get a lot of shots and it was a matter of time before they started to go in,” said McRae. “Finally, we were able to break them down and get a couple of goals.”
McRae set up Livingston at 9:31 of second period to tie the game at 1-1. On the play, Livingston skated to the left circle in the Soo zone and roofed a back hand shot over the shoulder of Greyhounds goaltender Robin Lehner.
“It was a great play by Livvy,” McRae explained. “I just gave him the puck in the neutral zone and he beat two or three guys and was able to score.”
Jenks gave the Whalers their first lead at 12:44 of the period when he skated into the Soo slot, cut to the left hash mark, faked forehand and stuffed a back hand past Lehner.
McRae scored top shelf from the severe angle at the right goal line at 19:00 of the period to give Plymouth a 3-1 lead – the first lead of more than one goal for either team in the series so far.
“We’re just trying to get a lot of shots on him (Lehner) and get pucks to the net,” McRae said. “We were just shooting for the openings and tonight they just happened to be high on him.”
Plymouth won many of the battles for pucks in the second period in building the 3-1 lead after forty minutes.
“We wanted to work extra hard for ‘Wedge’ (Scott Wedgewood),” McRae said. “He sat on the bench over the entire period and came in cold. So we wanted to help him out. One of the best qualities of our team is we are going to work hard every night. We have a lot of confidence knowing that both of our goalies are great goalies, so it really doesn’t matter who plays. It doesn’t matter who get hurt or doesn’t play – they’re both great goalies.”
The only goal Wedgewood gave up was a strange one and cut the Plymouth lead to 3-2 in the third period, coming on a delayed call to Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Michael Quesnele when the puck was mishandled by the Whalers and the puck went over the goal line. The goal was credited to Vern Cooper at 12:44.
But Plymouth came right back to lead 4-2 twenty seconds later on the power play when Seguin rifled a low shot from the left circle that deflected off a Soo stick and past Lehner at 13:04.
Lehner was pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, but Seguin blocked a shot in the Plymouth slot and the puck pinballed to Gaynor, who scored on the empty net at 19:05.
Plymouth outshot the Soo, 48-26.
The rest of the series shapes up like this:
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 23, 7:05pm – Plymouth at Sault Ste. Marie
Game 4 – Wednesday, March 24, 7:05pm – Plymouth at Sault Ste. Marie
Game 5 – Friday, March 26, 7:05pm – Sault Ste. Marie at Plymouth
Game 6 – Sunday, March 28, 7:05pm – Plymouth at Sault Ste. Marie (*)
Game 7 – Tuesday, March 30, 7:05pm – Sault Ste. Marie at Plymouth (*)
(*) if necessary
Games 3, 4 and 5 will be broadcast on 88.1FM WSDP starting at 6:45pm.
For information on Whalers ticket packages, including the Bob Evans’ Great Save 4 for $44 Pack, or to plan a group event, visit plymouthwhalers.com or call 734-453-8400.
Walt Dmoch AJ Jenks (blue 22) scores through Soo traffic to give Plymouth a 2-1 lead.