There are good reasons for the Plymouth Whalers to continue to play matinee games in mid-January.
Twenty-five National Hockey League teams came to Compuware Arena on Monday. As the Plymouth-Erie tilt was only game going on in the Ontario Hockey League, scouts had no other place to go. So it was standing room only in the Scouts/Media room an hour before game time in a scene reminiscent of the Tyler Seguin vs. Taylor Hall days.
The scouts saw the Whalers dominate in a 7-1 win over Erie to improve to 23-14-5-3, good for 54 points and second place in the OHL’s West Division, one point behind the Sarnia Sting (26-16-0-5, 55 points).
The scouts saw three players Plymouth GM Mike Vellucci acquired at the OHL Trade Deadline make major contributions in the victory.
Zach Lorentz (acquired from Windsor for Alex Aleardi) scored his first two goals in Plymouth and added an assist as the game's second star. Vince Trocheck (over from Saginaw) continued his good overall play, dishing out three assists. In five games with Plymouth, Trocheck has a goal with nine assists for 10 points. And Sebastian Uvira (acquired from Oshawa) assisted on Lorentz's first goal, was +2, got into a fight and was effective on the forecheck all afternoon long.
The scouts also saw Ryan Hartman score his 19th, Connor Carrick his ninth and Gianluca Curcuruto his fifth as an improved Plymouth power play went three-for-three.
Luke Cairns scored the lone Erie goal, his eighth of the year. The Otters – 10 points out the final playoff spot in the Western Conference – are now 15-24-3-4 and tenth in the Western Conference race.
Meanwhile, the Whalers have gone 9-3-0-0 since the Christmas Break.
Plymouth raced to a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Lorentz at 4:59, Payne at 6:51 and Hartman at 10:09, outshooting Erie, 18-2, during the first 10:09 of the game. Plymouth outshot Erie, 25-4, in the first period.
The Whalers extended their lead to 6-1 in the second period on goals by Payne at 3:09, Carrick at 13:07 and Lorentz at 19:59. Plymouth outshot Erie, 15-6, in the second period and 40-10 through forty minutes.
In all, Plymouth outshot Erie, 48-25, in the game.
Lorentz played most of the game on a line with Uvira and Matt Mistele and the combination was effective, especially on the forecheck. Lorentz's goals came on a re-direct on Uvira's shot, then a wraparound after sustained pressure in the Erie zone with one second left in the second period.
"We play simliar types of game," Lorentz said of Uvira. "Me and Oo-vie (Uvira) were trying to feed Misty (Mistele) and Misty was trying to feed us. We're just trying to get pucks to the net. We had a good practice yesterday. We worked on our neutral zone (coverage) and our break outs. I think that really helped out today."
Uvira has a smile on his face - most of the time - when he is off the ice.
"It was a great game today," Uvira said. "We played really well togther as a team. I had a lot of fun today. I think there's some really good chemistry here and I really like it."
Plymouth players and fans feed off Uvira's physical style. He didn't get an assist on Carrick power play goal to make the score 5-1 in the second period, but Uvira's screen on Erie goaltender Devin Williams was so effecitve that Williams didn't move until the Carrick's shot hit the back of the Erie net.
"I have to use my big body to show people that I can play hard," Uvira said. "I like to play a two-way game. I like to go in on the forecheck and finish my hits."
Not to be overlooked, but Payne has 13 goals on the season. His first goal came in the first period when Williams made the stop on Curcuruto's blast from the point but fumbled the rebound. Payne got his stick in the puck in the blue ice and directed into the net. His second goal came off a feed from behind the Erie net by Trocheck and he made no mistake with a shot from the hashmarks.
The Whalers play in Windsor on Thursday (6:45 p.m., 88.1FM WSDP) and in Sarnia on Friday (6:45 p.m., 88.1FM WSDP) before hosting Sarnia at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena on Saturday (6:45 p.m., 88.1FM WSDP and 7 p.m., Comcast 900).