Plymouth Whalers center Mitchell Heard has a flair for the dramatic.
Heard’s highlight reel goal at 1:42 of overtime powered the Plymouth Whalers to their seventh straight victory (and 15 out of its last 16), 4-3, over the Windsor Spitfires before a sellout crowd of 4,206 at Compuware Arena on Saturday.
The Whalers rebounded from Windsor leads of 2-1 and 3-2 to improve to 41-17-5-4, in first place in the Ontario Hockey League West Division and second seed in the Western Conference. Windsor (in ninth spot in the Western Conference and out of the playoffs) is 26-32-3-6.
The Whalers’ only loss over its past 16 games happened on Feb. 24 in a 6-5 loss in Windsor.
On the game-winning goal, Heard (nine goals and three assists for 12 points in six games in March) took a pass from defenseman Mitch Jones to score on Windsor goaltender Jaroslav Pavelka.
"When I got the pass from Jonesy I thought I was in all alone," Heard said. "But the guy (Trevor Murphy) was right on me, so I had to do something. I pulled something out of the bag of tricks for sure on that one."
Heard faked once, faked backhand, held on to the puck, then stuffed the shot, forehand, top shelf, before the loudest crowd heard at Compuware Arena this year.
Besides Heard’s 17th goal of the year (and third straight game-winning goal), the Whalers received a goal and two assists each from Stefan Noesen (now with 24 goals) and Sebastian Uvira (9). In addition, Vince Trocheck scored his 50th goal of the year with an assist and now has 106 points, two points behind league leader Charles Sarault of Sarnia (22-86-108).
Brady Vail (20), Kerby Rychel (40) and Alexander Khokhlachev (22) all scored for Windsor, with former Whaler Alex Aleardi assisting on all three Windsor goals.
The Spitfires are out of the playoffs, but gave Plymouth all they could handle. Khokhlachev's goal gave Windsor a 3-2 lead at 11:13 of the third period on a five-on-three power play after Whalers defenseman Austin levi received a five-minute spearing major and Garrett Meurs was whistled for roughing at 9:38.
But the Whalers came right back on Trocheck's 50th goal of the year as he finished off a three-way passing play with linemates Noesen and Uvira to score with a one-timer from the left hashmark at 15:37
Plymouth outshot Windsor, 42-30, in the game, including a 4-1 edge in the overtime.
The Whalers and Spitfires complete the regular season on Sunday afternoon in Windsor (1:50 p.m., www.plymouthwhalers.com).
Second-seed Plymouth draws seventh seed Sarnia in the best four-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinals, starting March 22 and 23 at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena. The rest of the series will be announced Monday morning.