PLYMOUTH – Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 45-of-47 shots and the Guelph Storm built a 3-0 lead in the second period and withstood a late Plymouth rally to defeat the Whalers, 4-2, in an Ontario Hockey League first-round playoff game played Friday before 2,265 at Compuware Arena.
Guelph leads the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series, one-game-to-none, with Game 2 set for Sunday in Guelph.
Jason Dickinson, Brock McGinn, Andrey Pedan and Francis Menard scored for Guelph. Alex Aleardi (shorthanded) and J.T. Miller replied for Plymouth.
The Storm finished the regular season with a four-game winning streak and scored the only goal of the first period, by Dickinson on a power play at 16:55. Plymouth’s Andy Bathgate blocked Matt Finn’s shot from the point, but the puck caromed to Menard and he found Scott Kosmachuk, who took a shot from the left hashmark that was blocked by Plymouth defenseman Austin Levi. But the puck pinballed to Dickinson in on the right wing side of the Plymouth goal and he made no mistake.
McGinn scored a strange goal to give Guelph a 2-0 lead at 1:04 of the second period when – standing beyond the goal line – he banked a shot off Wedgewood and into the goal.
Pedan gave Guelph a 3-0 lead on the power play at 4:07 of the second period, snapping a shot from the high slot with Guelph forward Cody McNaughton creating a screen in front of Wedgewood.
Trailing 3-0 in the second period, the Whalers need a spark and received it from Aleardi, who scored a shorthanded goal at 16:22. Plymouth’s Michael Whaley retrieved the puck beyond his own goal line and pass it up the middle through center to Aleardi, who split the Guelph defense and stuffed the shot, top-shelf, past Sparks to cut to Guelph lead to 3-1.
Plymouth took over the play in the third period, at one point outshooting Guelph, 11-1 over the first 5:44 of the third period and 21-8 overall in the period. Bathgate – stationed at the right goal line in the Guelph zone – found Miller parked in front of the Storm net and Miller scored on a re-direct at 3:18 on a Whalers power play to cut the Guelph lead to 3-2.
Plymouth had several good chances to scores (Aleardi and Miller in particular), but Sparks showed why he is the current Vaughan CHL Goaltender of the Week.
Late in the third period, Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci pulled Whalers goaltender Scott Wedgewood for the extra attacker, but Menard scored on the empty net at 19:38 of the period to ice the victory for Guelph.
Plymouth outshot Guelph, 47-30.
Here’s the rest of the series:
Game 2 – Sunday, March 25 – Plymouth at Guelph, 6:30 pm, Sleeman Centre.
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 27 – Guelph at Plymouth, 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena.
Game 4 – Thursday, March 29 – Plymouth at Guelph, 7:00 pm, Sleeman Centre.
(*) Game 5 – Saturday, March 31 – Guelph at Plymouth, 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena.
(*) Game 6 – Sunday, April 1 – Plymouth at Guelph, 6:30 pm, Sleeman Centre.
(*) Game 7 – Tuesday, April 3 – Guelph at Plymouth, 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena.
(*) if necessary