Whalers Beat Windsor, 2-1, in Preseason Opener
Photo - Mitchell Heard scores the game-winning goal. Credit - Rena Laverty
FARMINGTON HILLS – Backed by Scott Wedgewood’s 36 saves and goals by Beau Schmitz and Mitchell Heard, the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Windsor Spitfires, 2-1, in the opening pre-season game for both teams to start their Ontario Hockey League season.
Nearly 750 fans braved heat in the afternoon and a pounding thunderstorm later to help support the Farmington Hills Hockey Association in the “Faceoff in Farmington.”
Fans were standing two-deep in one end of the Farmington Hills Ice Arena and the bleachers were filled with both Plymouth and Windsor fans, who saw an evenly played hockey games through 60 minutes.
“We thank everyone for coming out tonight – on both sides of the border,” said Denise Ronayne, Plymouth Director of Sales and Marketing. “We had a nice vibe in the building tonight, and a lot of smiles. Whalers Hockey is back.”
Plymouth and Windsor iced teams that probably will not look like their respective rosters on the opening night of the OHL season. For instance, the Whalers scratched J.T. Miller, Austin Levi, Rickard Rakell, Matt Mahalak and Stefan Noesen – all NHL drafts – as well RJ Mahalak and Nick Malysa.
Both teams used rookies and other new players liberally. The Whalers brought in left wing Trent Samuels-Thomas for a tryout and he played a regular shift. Samuels-Thomas played last season with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior League. Draft choices Mitchell Dempsey, Matt Mistele and Danny Vanderwiel made their Whaler debut as did overage center Andy Bathgate.
After a scoreless first period that saw Windsor outshoot Plymouth, 14-11, a couple of Whaler veterans teamed up to give Plymouth a 1-0 lead at the 15:46 of the second period. Working on a four-on-three power play, Heard found Schmitz in the high slot and he buried a low wrister past Windsor rookie goaltender Jordan DeKort. Alex Aleardi was also in the vicinity, but the goal was Schmitz.
The Whalers struck again on another power play during the first minute of the third period when Heard batted home a loose puck from the right circle at 0:47. Tom Wilson and Dario Trutmann drew assists.
Wedgewood played some of his best hockey in the third period. Rychel cut the Plymouth lead to 2-1 on a Windsor power play at 9:31, batting home a rebound at the right wing side of the Whalers crease.
Windsor kept coming, looking for the equalizer. In the final minute of play, Windsor had a six-on four advantage when head coach Bob Boughner pulled DeKort for the extra attacker and Heard was sent off for roughing at 19:00. But Windsor’s Nick Czinder was whistled for roughing at 19:41 and the Whalers ragged of the rest of the time to win the game.
Windsor outshot Plymouth, 36-33.
The Whalers play in Windsor on Monday at 2pm in their next preseason game.