Undisciplined Soo Greyhounds give Whalers nine PP’s in bloody conference final o

By Derek Berry

PLYMOUTH, MI-Even the most passive hockey watcher knows that it’s not good to give the opposition nine power play opportunities-in one game.
But that’s what the Soo Greyhounds did in their third-round Western Conference series opener against the Plymouth Whalers at Compuware Sports Arena last Saturday night, falling to the Whalers 4-1 before 2,987.

The gloves were dropping in this Ontario Hockey League contest and the penalty box door was constantly swinging open-especially Soo’s. But, was referee Dean Morton calling this one a little one-sided in favor of Plymouth?

“No, I don’t think so,” said Greyhounds head coach Paul Theriault. “We only had one full power play half way through the game, but I’m not going to question the job the officials did. It’s a good crew.”

Theriault did say, however, that he expects his team to win and play a bit more disciplined than their Game One showing.

The first period was even, in terms of the score. The Greyhounds got on the board first with a goal more than halfway through the first period. Chad Spurr, one of the team’s top scorers, notched a goal at 13:58 to make it 1-0. Then, the boxing matches broke out.

Immediately after the first goal, Jeff Richards of the Soo and Chris Cava of Plymouth squared off and it was the first of many melees. Plymouth tied it up at the end of the first period on a Justin Williams goal, relieving the Whalers, who were having trouble with rebounds in the first period. They had 10 first period shots, all quality chances.

In the second, two Plymouth power play goals (by Tomas Kurka and Damian Surma, respectively) and a George Nistas eventual-game winner before that, made it 4-1, leaving the Soo a little weary.

Again, it was the Whalers, much like they did vs. Windsor in Game Five of the second round series, picking it up in the second period and pouring it on.

“We really stepped it up in the second period,” said Whalers head coach and general manager Peter DeBoer. “The second goal (by Nistas) was just a beautiful move around their defenseman (Paul Ballantyne) who is one of the best defensemen in the league.”

DeBoer once again attributed his team’s good play to strong defense, goaltending and good penalty killing…that is, when the Soo actually had a penalty.

“Hey, we were out there fighting for territory and we stayed very disciplined,” said DeBoer, recently named OHL Coach of the Year. “I think the penalties took the flow out of the game. If they want to drop the gloves and keep giving us power plays (in the next game) we’ll take them, but I don’t think they will.”

The rest of the game, from the middle of the second, until the end, was exciting for the fans, but tiring for the officials. A total of six fights and several other mini-scrums took place, resulting in more than 100 minutes in penalties right up until the final buzzer.

Still, though, Theriault feels confident heading back to Sault Ste. Marie in the series.

“We feel good about this, we really do,” said Theriault. “We had guys out tonight (referring to starting goalie Ray Emery, who was resting after a tough seventh game in the Erie series and Cory Pecker, who was ill) and we had a tough recent series. We’ll be ready next game.”

Meanwhile, DeBoer knows winning Game One was important, but doesn’t want to get overconfident about the victory.

“Winning at home and winning the first game going up to the Soo is very important,” says DeBoer. “I think they were fatigued as the game went on and I think we weren’t sharp to start out with either.”

Let’s hope Oscar de la Hoya doesn’t suit up for either team in the next contest. Games Two and Three will be played in the Soo on Tuesday, April 25 and Wednesday, April 26. The series shifts back to Plymouth next weekend, with Game Four and if necessary Game Five on Friday/Saturday (April 28-29).