Plymouth Whalers knockout Windsor Spitfires in second round OHL series

By Derek Berry

PLYMOUTH, MI-Do you want some more? That’s what the Plymouth Whalers were asking the wounded Windsor Spitfires as they left Compuware Arena in Plymouth in their recent four-games-to-one playoff series victory. It’s not that the Spitfires played poorly or did not compete, it’s just that Plymouth seemed to have more when it mattered.
Take Game Five of the series for instance. The Whalers started off with two big, very deflating goals in the first ten minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the game and putting a dagger in Windsor’s hearts.
It was the Whalers top scorers rising to the occasion when they had to-Damian Surma and Justin Williams, who had the big early goals for Plymouth off of Windsor goaltender Mike Leighton. But, shortly after this point, Windsor had their moment to get back into it and change the direction of the series.
Three straight Plymouth penalties, one of which was a ten minute misconduct assessed to Libor Ustrnul for boarding, and a hooking call to Jared Newman, was just what Windsor needed. And they made it interesting.
Vince Grant worked hard in front of the net to get the power play tally off of Plymouth goalie Rob Zepp and it made the score 2-1 at the end of the first period.
“We had it in the back of our minds that if we worked hard, kept plugging away and got scoring chances, that we could win,” said Zepp, a 1999 fourth round draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers. “We learned from last year’s mistakes.”
Zepp and his teammates were aware that this was the exact date a year ago (April 15) that their team was knocked out of the OHL playoffs. This time, they would not be denied.
In the second period, things swung dramatically in favor of Plymouth in terms of power play time. The Whalers had three of them, scoring once on a goal by Team Captain Randy Fitzgerald, making it 3-1. Plymouth at this point was also outshooting Windsor by a large margin and had the Spitfires on their heels a bit.
“We worked hard, but we just ran out of gas at the end,” said Windsor head coach Tom Webster. “After those first ten minutes of the game, I thought we played pretty well. It could have been a different game,” he said. But, alas it wasn’t.
Plymouth basically toyed with Windsor in the third period, which featured some good up and down action, but a tired Windsor squad-thumped by the Whalers a night earlier-at home, no less-8-3. Windsor’s season ended in tears.
“We’ve got some good players coming back and a lot of people wanting to come to this organization again,” said Webster. “I think things are improving.”
“I thought we played hard every shift, but Plymouth has a strong club,” said Spitfires season goal scoring leader Steve Ott. “Next year, we’ll be ready to go.”
The Whalers meanwhile were jubilant-and not too eager for their next round opponent-either Sault Ste. Marie or Erie-to finish their series quickly.
“We want that series to go seven games, with overtime in Game Seven,” said Whalers head coach and general manager Peter DeBoer. “No matter who it is, we’ll try to jump on them right away.”
DeBoer says his team expects to win the next series, just like it did this series.
“We deserve the success, with all the hard work we’ve done,” he said. “Zepp made some big saves, we kept the lead and we didn’t want to go back to Windsor Arena, which is a tough building to play in.”