As the Whalers prepare to play in Guelph on Friday and host Niagara on Satuday, Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci is one win shy from a milestone in his coaching career.
The winningest coach in Plymouth franchise history, Vellucci comes into the weekend with 399 wins.
A look at at Vellucci's path to 399 wins since taking over as head coach in 2001 shows some interesting players:
WIN # DATE OPPONENT SCORE 399 September 29, 2012 SUDBURY 6-2 350 March 5, 2011 WINDSOR 6-2 300 January 2, 2010 WINDSOR 4-3 250 December 4, 2008 at Peterborough 3-2
200 December 15, 2006 at Oshawa 5-1 150 October 15, 2005 SARNIA 5-3 100 January 9, 2004 at Sault Ste. Marie 4-2 50 November 10, 2002 at Windsor 5-4 OT 1 September 22, 2001 OWEN SOUND 6-4
Plymouth assistant coach Don Elland has known Vellucci for a long time.
“I don’t know if there’s any one thing that makes Mike an excellent coach,” said Elland. “He’s very detail oriented, he’s great at X’s and O’s and knows what he wants from his players. He demands a lot, but he also has the ability to make the players play for him. They all want to play hard for him and they all buy into the system. He doesn’t care if you’re the 12th forward or the first forward, there are no shortcuts and you buy in to the system."
Vellucci displays the ability to make adjustments in the middle of games. As Whaler fans know and appreciate, the forward lines may start one way and end end completely different - all in the name of finding combinations that result in goals.
Speaking of adjusting, Plymouth’s 6-2 win over Sudbury last week was done with a short bench, with JT Miller (American Hockey League), Connor Sills (suspension) and Ryan Hartman (US Prospects All-Star game) all missing and then Danny Vanderwiel, Stefan Noesen and Alex Aleardi all out after the start of the second period. Mitch Jones missed a lot of the second period after receiving a misconduct.
Playing for the most part with six forwards and six or seven defensemen, the shorthanded Whalers pulled away with four unanswered goals in the second period to extend a 1-0 lead to 5-0 after forty minutes.
“It was a great win,” Elland said. “We even had some “d” playing forward (Curtis Crombeen and Mitch Jones) for a little bit. It was great win, being shorthanded like that and finding a way to get it done. There was no panic in the locker room and no panic among the guys. That attitude comes right from Mike.”
Vellucci has been instrumental in the development of many players. Tyler Seguin - now with the Boston Bruins - blossomed when Vellucci came back behind the bench in November of 2008 after taking an 11-month hiatus.
“Junior is where everything starts,” Seguin said. “This is the level where you find yourself and figure out if the National Hockey League is going to be a dream the rest of your life or become a (legitimate) goal. That’s one of the things Mike talked about. I definitely couldn’t have made it to Boston without his influence.”
Alex Aleardi and Cody Payne have found new life since coming to the Whalers. Aleardi was slated to play for Columbus in the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City (cancelled because the National Hockey League lockout) and Payne was drafted last summer by the Boston Bruins in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“My whole style of hockey just changed when I came to Plymouth,” Aleardi said. “Just learning the defensive strategies and making my way up ice has definitely changed."
“It was nice to come to Plymouth,” he said. “Everyone here is so professional. The boys were nice when I came and the coaches were good, too. They turned me into a hockey player here – they gave me an opportunity to play. It’s paid off so far."
Coming into the weekend, Hartman returns to the lineup and Sills will be back on Saturday. JT Miller remains with Connecticut of the American Hockey League.
AUDIO: Plymouth assistant coach Don Elland was interviewed on "Plymouth Whalers Weekly" heard on 88.1FM WSDP The Park every Tuesday and Friday from 5:45-6pm.
AUTOGRAPH NIGHT on SATURDAY: The Whalers will be available for autographs after the game. They’ll be spread out throughout Compuware Arena a few minutes after the game. Free posters will be handed out.
PINK OUT! WEEK NEXT WEEK: The Whalers will participate in their annual Pink Out! For Breast Cancer Awareness on Saturday, October 13 against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena.
The Whalers will once again get their hair dyed pink as a team and will wear specifically designed pink jerseys for the game. The jerseys will be auctioned off with benefits going to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
The Whalers are teaming up once again with the Lucky Hair Company in Canton to get their hair dyed. Plymouth will report in two shifts on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 am and then again later in the afternoon the Lucky Hair Company.
The Lucky Hair Company is located at 45241 Cherry Hill Road in Canton. Call them at 734-844-8166.
The Whalers will play in pink hair on the road on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in Owen Sound and Friday, Oct. 12 in London before taking on the Greyhounds on Oct. 13.