Whalers' Third Period Rally Nets 3-2 Win Over Mississauga

Jan 18, 2013 - 18:38 EST

PLYMOUTH  Good teams find a way to win - and grind it out when adversity strikes.

The Plymouth Whalers found a way to win on Friday against the Mississuaga Steelheads.

Garrett Meurs’ power play goal at 15:07 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and the Plymouth Whalers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Mississauga Steelheads, 3-2, in an Ontario Hockey League game played Friday night before 2,777 at Compuware Arena.

The game probably shouldn't have been as close as it was.  Mississauga goaltender Spencer Martin - rated fifth among North American goaltenders in the National Hockey League's Central Scouting Bureau's mid-term rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft - held his team in the game when the Whalers dominated the game, especially over the final two periods when Plymouth outshot Mississauga, 35-15.  In all, Martin (the game's third star) stopped 39-of-42 Plymouth shots.

The Whalers improve to 22-13-5-3, good for 52 points and second place in the OHL West Division, three points behind first place Sarnia (26-15-0-3, 55 points).  The Sting defeated Erie, 7-6, on Friday.

Mississauga is 20-19-0-4.

Besides Meurs’ 19th goal of the season, Plymouth also received goals from Gianluca Curcuruto (4) and first star Ryan Hartman (17).

The Steelheads built a 2-0 lead midway through regulation time on a first period goal Dylan Smoskowitz (28) and a power play goal in the second period by Josh Burnside (11) before the Whalers started their comeback on Curcuruto’s goal at 13:01.  Curcuruto picked up the puck in the high slot in the Mississauga zone, cut to his left and buried the shot past Martin.

Curcuruto's goal broke Mississauga shutout streak against the Whalers at Compuware Arena at 166:03 stretching over three seasons.  Mississauga shut out Plymouth, 2-0, on Jan. 14, 2012 and 5-0 on Oct. 23, 2010.  Before Curcuruto's goal, James Livingston scored the last Plymouth goal against Mississauga on Feb. 19, 2010 in a 6-2 Whalers victory.

"We were better in the second period," said Plymouth veteran Stefan Noesen.  "I think you're going to see Whaler Hockey in the third."

Whaler Hockey refers to Plymouth's style of play when the team is clicking, meaning hard on the forecheck, blocking shots, doing whatever it takes to win a game.  That's what Plymouth did in the third frame in outshooting the Steelheads, 18-11.

"We dominated on the shot clock," said Hartman.  "We found another way to come back and that showed a lot of character for our team. We got them back on their heels (in the third period) and it helped us."  

Trailing 2-1 after forty minutes, the Whalers tied the game at 2-2 on Hartman’s power play goal at 1:48 of the third period and then took their first lead of the game on Meurs’ lead goal at 15:07.

"It was a two-on-one down low," Hartman said of his equalizer.  "Carrick fired it and it was Heard and me down low.  Heard passed it to me (on the left side of the blue ice) and I put it in."

Meurs' game winner came after he was intercepeted in the Mississauga zone, but Vince Trocheck took the puck in the high slot, skated behind the Mississauga net and found Meurs on the left side of the Steelheads' goal.  Meurs wasted no time with a quick shot and the Whalers led for the first time in the game at 3-2.

There was drama in the final 1:30 of the game with both teams calling time out to map out strategy and Mississauga coach James Boyed pulling goaltender Martin for the extra attacker.  But the Whalers held on for the victory.

Plymouth outshot Mississauga, 42-20.

The Whalers remain at home Saturday night at 7:05 pm at Compuware Arena, hosting Sault Ste. Marie (7 pm, Comcast 900).  Plymouth hosts Erie on Monday at 2 pm (1:45 pm, 88.1FM WSDP).