PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Whalers broke open a 2-2 tie early in the third period with four unanswered goals and the Whalers defeated the Erie Otters, 6-2, in Plymouth’s home opener Saturday night at Compuware Arena.
Plymouth is now 1-1-0-0; Erie is now 0-2-0-0.
After losing, 6-2, on Wednesday in Owen Sound, the Whalers received the rest of their players from various National Hockey League training camps. Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey), Austin Levi (Carolina), J.T. Miller (New York Rangers), Garrett Meurs (Colorado) and Rickard Rakell (Anaheim) all made their Plymouth debuts tonight, joining Stefan Noesen (Ottawa), Mitchell Heard (Toronto) and Matt Mahalak (Carolina).
Plymouth’s overall depth wore down the Otters, with every line contributing and 11 different Whalers scoring points. Alex Aleardi emerged as the game’s first star, scoring two third period goals (including the game winner) and added an assist. Rookie Mitchell Dempsey scored his first OHL goal and added two assists. Noesen, Heard and Rakell each scored a goal.
Greg McKegg and Brett Thompson scored their first goals of the season for Erie.
Plymouth had a clear territorial edge through much of the game, outshooting Erie, 53-22. Otters goaltender Tyson Teichmann (over in a trade with Belleville this past summer) was outstanding in stopping 47-of-53 shots.
The first period was scoreless with Plymouth outshooting Erie, 19-4. Wedgewood made an outstanding stop in the period when McKegg and Thompson broke in two-on-one and Wedgewood slid to his right to stop Thompson’s re-direct.
Plymouth took a 1-0 lead on Noesen’s power play goal at 6:23 of the second period. Rakell – stationed at the left wing half-wall – found Noesen on the left wing side of the net, who kept banging away at the puck with typical persistence until it went over the line.
Thompson tied the game at 1-1 at 16:08 on a power play, scoring on a deflection on the right wing side of the Plymouth goal. But the Whalers came right back 0:43 later with the line of Miller, Heard and Tom Wilson doing good work deep in the Erie zone. Miller found Heard on the right side of the goal and although Teichmann got most of Heard’s shot, it trickled over the line.
McKegg –who scored 49 goals last season for the Otters – tied the game at 2-2 at 0:34 when he blew the shot past Wedgewood from the left circle.
That set the stage for the Whalers’ four-goal explosion. Aleardi scored the eventual game-winner at 5:26, using his speed through neutral territory, cutting deep into the Erie zone on the left wing. Aleardi cut left-to-right and stuffed the puck past Teichmann.
Rakell and Noesen teamed up to give the Whalers a 4-2 lead at 7:14, when Rakell scored from the left circle. Veterans Andy Bathgate and Aleardi then worked to set up Dempsey for his first OHL goal at 12:05. Aleardi set up behind the Erie goal and found Dempsey at the hashmarks, who wasted no time with a well-placed shot.
Aleardi finished the scoring at 19:09.
“We just kept working hard as a team,” Aleardi said after the game. “We outplayed them all night – offensive zone, neutral zone and defensive zone. We have all our guys back from pro camps, so we’re a more complete team. We played really well and got a ‘W’”.
Aleardi talked about how his line clicked.
“I played with Bathgate in Belleville, so we we had chemistry already,” Aleardi said. “As soon as (head coach) Mike (Vellucci) put us on a line together, we knew it was going to work out. It’s a real quick line and Dempsey is a skilled forward who is real big and tough in front of the net. I really like the chemistry of this line and what it looks like for the year.”
The Whalers are off until next Friday when they host Ottawa at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena. Plymouth remains home next Saturday, hosting London at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena.