SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario - Mitchell Heard scored his first Ontario Hockey League hat trick, Matt Mistele scored twice and goaltender Matt Mahalak stopped all 29 shots he faced as the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 8-0, before 4,295 at Essar Centre on Wednesday.
Besides Heard's hat trick (14-15-16) and Mistele's pair (33-34), Vince Trocheck scored a goal (49) with two assists and Garrett Meurs scored a goal (31) and two assists. Cody Payne added his 23rd goal of the year. Mahalak recorded his second shutout of the year and sixth of his career.
Plymouth led 3-0 after one period and 5-0 after forty minutes.
The Whalers have won six games and a row - and 14 out of their last 15 games - to improve to 40-17-5-4, good for 89 points and first place in the OHL West Divison (second overall in the Western Conference). Plymouth has won nine of of its last 10 road games.
In addition, the Whalers have hit the 40-win plateau for the ninth season in the team's 23-year history.
Plymouth won the battle of special teams, going two-for-nine on the power play while killing off all nine Soo power plays.
While the Whalers received plenty of offense, everyone who wore the Whalers' white contributed to the victory. Defenseman Nick Malysa didn't have a point and went +4. Alex Peters, Danny Vanderwiel, Sebastian Uvira and others played well. Coaches Mike Vellucci and Joe Stefan rolled all 11 Plymouth forwards and six defensemen in all situations.
Heard has at least one goal in every Plymouth game in March and has eight goals and three assists for 11 points in five games in March.
Trocheck's three points in the game and 104 points over 61 games moves him into a tie with Sarnia's Charles Sarault for the league lead in scoring. Trocheck also leads the OHL with a +46 rating.
Although Colin MacDonald, Tom Wilson, Rickard Rakell and Ryan Hartman didn't make the trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Plymouth had plenty of depth to win. As they have through much of the second half, the Whalers constantly won one-on-one battles all over the ice and forced the 'Hounds into turnovers. Sault Ste. Marie goaltender Matt Murray couldn't be faulted. The Whalers had at least six breakaways in the game.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Peter Ruicci, Sault Star.
Plymouth finishes the regular season this weekend, hosting Windsor on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena and then will play in Windsor on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Windsor Family Credit Union Centre.
The Whalers start the 2013 playoffs on March 22 at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena against an opponent to be determined.