After losing a number of quality players, the Plymouth Whalers were expected to struggle this Ontario
Hockey League season.
And struggle they have. The Whalers sit in fourth place in the OHL’s Western Division at about the
one-third mark of the campaign.
However, there are some encouraging signs.
In goal, 18-year old Rob Zepp has been steady behind a largely inexperienced defense. The Atlanta
Thrashers draftee has a goals against average of 2.42 in 17 appearances.
First round draft pick Stephen Weiss leads the team in scoring with 25 points, and fellow rookie Tomas
Kurka has 18.
Weiss has speed and good puck sense. The puck seems to follow him around, and all things considered,
those 25 points are no fluke.He’s been named to Ontario’s Under-17 team at the World Hockey Challenge.
Kurka, from the Czech Republic, brings with him the reputation of a sniper. His 15 points are fifth on the
In between are second year wingers Justin Williams and Damien Surma, along with overage defenceman
A pleasant surprise has been the play of another Czech import. Defender Libor Urstrnul stands 6’5″ and
weighs 230 lbs., but has a fair amount of mobility, which is surprising for a big man. The soon-to-be
19-year-old also likes to mix it up, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.
Indeed, a Urstrnul fight is quite a sight. It starts with the fact that he DOES fight, a trait not often seen in
But his style has people talking.
Since he’s so tall, he towers over a lot of other players, His punching motion is over the top.
He spends a lot of time punching downward, seemingly trying to pound the other player into the ice.
As far as actual hockey talent goes, he’s developing into a solid, stay-at-home defenceman who should
quickly become his goalie’s best friend. There are predictions he’ll go in the first round in next June’s NHL
draft. In fact, Central Scouting’s early report has him ranked sixth in the OHL.
The production of Williams and Surma are also pluses, considering, especially in the case of Williams, they
didn’t get a whole lot of ice time last season.
Central Scouting has Williams in 11th position, and fellow sophomore Centre Kris Vernarsky, at 8, while
defenceman Jared Newman sits in 17th position, and Kurka is one spot behind. Vernarsky has 17 points,
sixth on the team.
One other player rates a mention here, but for a different reason. Rookie goalie Aaron Molnar is ranked
number two, but that’s been overshadowed by the fact that he left the team a few days ago. No reason has
been given for his departure. Replacing him on the Whalers roster is former London Knight Bill Ruggiero.
G A PTS
Stephen Weiss 8 17 25
Justin Williams 12 10 22
Damien Surma 12 9 21
Shaun Fisher 4 15 19
Tomas Kurka 10 8 18
GPI GAA SV%
Rob Zepp 17 2.42 .903
When OHL training camps opened last summer, not much was expected of the Windsor Spitfires. They’d
spent the last few seasons near the bottom of the pack, a trend which was expected to continue.
Things were looking up for the future, however, with the hiring of Former Guelph General Manager Mike
Kelly as President and GM, and the return of Tom Webster as coach.
But at this stage of the season, there is an air of optimism around old Windsor Arena. The Spits are in
second place in the Western Division, just two points behind the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The good feelings extend to the dressing rom as well, a fact not lost on overage centre Jeff Martin.
He’s seen plenty of lowlights in his previous four seasons, but he told the Toronto Sun, “There’s a total
changeover this year. When you go to the rink everyone wants to be here. I wish for my sake this had
happened in my first year.”
The biggest improvement is in credibility. The club got a healthy dose of it when Kelly and Webster came
aboard. Everything starts at the top, of course, but on the ice is where things become obvious.
The rookie line of Shawn Mather, Craig Kennedy and Steve Ott are 1-2-4 in team scoring.
Mather is a 19-year old who left Michigan State University to play junior hockey. He has 22 points.
Ott, 17, leads the team with 24 points, while Kennedy, 16, has 17 points.
Kennedy will be playing for team Ontario in the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge over the holidays.
Veterans Ryan Courtney and Pavel Shtefan round out the top five scorers. Wingers Joey Sewell and Robin
Boucher deserve honourable mention, while Mark Ridout and first round draft choice Tim Gleason lead a
defensive corps that isn’t spectacular, but gets the job done.
Where the Spits shine, however, is in goal. Second-year man Michael Leighton has a goals against average
of 2.56, while rookie Ryan Aschaber has been a pleasant surprise. He has a GA of 3.50. The youngster
wasn’t expected to get a lot of ice time, but when Leighton went down with a groin injury, he stepped in and
led the team to a 6-game winning streak.
Only time will tell if the Spitfires can keep up their current pace. However, the ingredients are in place for an
G A PTS
Steve Ott 6 18 24
Shawn Mather 12 10 22
Pavel Shtefan 9 10 19
Craig Kennedy 8 9 17
Ryan Courtney 2 12 14
GPI GAA SV%
Michael Leighton 13 2.56 .903
Ryan Aschaber 11 3.50 .876
Kingston Frontenacs Centre Mike Zigomanis was front and centre for his club last week, and his efforts
have led to his selection as the latest Ontario Hockey League Player of the Week.
In three games, the Frontenacs went 2-1, with Zigomanis picking up 10 points.
The 18-year old native of Scarborough, Ontario got things started with two goals and two assists in a 5-4
loss to Belleville. he was the game’s second star.
Two nights later he had a goal and five assists to lead the Fronts to an 8-4 win over Plymouth.
He was held without a point in a 5-2 victory over Sault Ste. Marie.
Zigomanis was drafted in the second round, 64th overall, by the Buffalo sabres in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
Elsewhere on the OHL beat, 19 of its best young players will Represent Ontario at the 2000 World Hockey
Challenge for Under-17s.
Team Ontario will be coached by Steve Spott, assistant coach of the Plymouth Whalers.
The tournament will run from December 27 to January 3, and feature teams from the USA, Czech Republic,
Finland, Russia and Slovakia.
Canada will be represented by teams from the Atlantic Region (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward
Island and New Brunswick), the West (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) and the Pacific Region (British
Columbia and Alberta), and Quebec.