The National Hockey League may be locked out, but hockey is thriving in Plymouth.
Saturday night at Compuware Arena, 3,483 saw the Kitchener Rangers defeat the Plymouth Whalers, 5-4, in a shootout during the Whalers’ annual Teddy Bear Toss night.
Radek Faksa scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Rangers (now 18-8-1-1) the victory.
Plymouth (now 14-8-3-2, 33 points) remains in first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division, one point ahead of the Sarnia Sting (15-11-0-2, 32 points), who defeated Peterborough, 5-2, on Saturday night.
Ryan Hartman led the Plymouth attack with two goals (10-11) and an assist as the game’s second star. Garrett Meurs (12) and Matt Mistele (11) scored the other Plymouth goals, with Mistele’s redirect in the first period sending the Teddy bears raining out of the crowd and onto the ice surface.
More than 1,000 Teddy Bears were collected.
Rickard Rakell contributed three assists for Plymouth and 16-year-old goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic played well for the Whalers in the loss, stopping 26-of-30 shots over 65 minutes of work.
First-star Faksa scored his seventh goal of the season in regulation for Kitchener, while Ben Thomson (4), Justin Bailey (7), Matia Marcantuoni (4) scored the other Kitchener goal. Rangers goaltender Franky Palazzese was the razor-thin difference in the game, stopping all three shots he faced in the shootout and 38-of-42 shots over 65 minutes.
Plymouth and Kitchener were tied at 1-1 after one period and 3-3 after forty minutes.
Tonight’s game was the best game of the season, featuring plenty of flow, skill, big hits and overall excitement. Plymouth and Kitchener were tied or no more than a one-goal differential all game long. Trailing 4-3 in the final minute of regulation, the Whalers tied the game on Hartman’s goal at 19:09 after pulling goaltender Nedeljkovic for the extra attacker.
Plymouth outshot Kitchener, 42-31.
The Whalers play in Owen Sound next Wednesday (6:45 p.m., 88.1 FM WSDP) before returning home next Friday against Saginaw at 7:05 p.m. and Oshawa on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.