Sound bytes provided by Pete Krupsky and www.plymouthwhalers.com.
ERIE, PA - Rickard Rakell's second goal of the game at 3:35 of overtime snapped a 3-3 tie and the Plymouth Whalers came from behind to defeat the Erie Otters, 4-3 in overtime, in an Ontario Hockey League game played Wednesday night before 2,151 at Erie Insurance Arena.
The Whalers move into sole possession of first place in the OHL West with a record of 13-8-3-1, good for 30 points. The Whalers are two points ahead of Sarnia (13-11-0-2. 28 points).
On the game-winning goal, Rakell skated into the Erie zone and snapped a quick shot past Otters goaltender Oscar Dansk from the right circle for his 12th goal of the season.
Late in the third period, Rakell tied the game at 3-3 at 18:35, bouncing a shot of Dansk from the left circle.
First star Rakell - with linemates Zach Bratina and Garrett Meurs - supplied all the offense the Whalers needed in the game. Bratina (second) and Meurs (11th) scored the other Plymouth goals, both in the second period as the Whalers rebounded from a 2-0 Erie lead after one period to tie the game at 2-2 after forty minutes.
Erie overage J.P. Labordo scored twice for Erie (9-10) as the game's second star, while third star Connor McDavid scored a goal (15th) and added an assist. Erie is now 7-15-2-3.
Plymouth goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic played well in the second OHL start, picking up his first OHL win while stopping 26-of-29 shots. Nedeljkovic had at least eight family members and friends from Parma, OH in attendance in the game.
The Whalers iced one of the youngest lineups they've used in a game in recent memory with veteran defensemen Colin MacDonald, Austin Levi and Curtis Crombeen - along with left wing Stefan Noesen - all out of the lineup due to injuries. Overage Alex Aleardi also sat the rest of the game after taking an unsportmanlike conduct penalty early in the second period. Young players Alex Peters, Danny Vanderwiel, Zach Bratina, Mitch Jones, Matt Mistele and Connor Sills all saw plenty of ice time and Nedeljkovic was steady in goal.
Erie took a 2-0 lead after one period of play. McDavid - showing why he was taken first overall in last spring OHL's Priority Selection - figured in on both Erie goals, following up his own shot to the right goal line to find Labardo working in front at 9:52 and then ripping a shot from the high slot on an Otters' power play at 16:57.
But Plymouth fought back to tie the game in the second period. Meurs took the puck behind the Erie goal and tried a wrap around from the right post that was stopped by Dansk, but Bratina - battling for position near the Erie blue ice - placed a shot through traffic over Dansk's shoulder at 7:11 to cut the Erie lead to 2-1. Meurs tied the game at 2-2 at 14:53 with another gritty goal, jousting with Erie defenseman Adam Pelech in front of the net and batting at the puck several times after Dansk made the save on Gianluca Curcuruto's shot from the the high slot. Meurs was rewarded for his persistance and the game was tied.
Plymouth's forward line of Ryan Hartman, Tom Wilson and Matt Mistele dominated at times in the third period, but Dansk played well and the Otters regained the lead at 3-2 on Labardo's re-direct from Luke Cairns' pass from the right goal line at 12:20.
That set the stage for Plymouth's comeback, fueled by Rakell.
Plymouth outshot Erie, 32-29.
Plymouth is home the rest of this weekend, hosting Ottawa on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena (6:45 p.m., 88.1 FM WSDP) and Kitchener on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena (6:45 p.m., 88.1 FM WSDP). Tickets are available by calling 734-453-8400.