Ottawa 67's radio broadcaster AJ Jakubec had a question when he strolled into the Compuware Arena main office Friday morning while the 67's were skating in preparation for the Ottawa-Plymouth game later that evening.
"Is Stefan Noesen playing tonight?" Jakubec asked.
Since Noesen was selected in the first round (21st) by the Ottawa Senators in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Ottawa media has followed Noesen closely. Noesen missed the Whalers game in Ottawa on Nov. 18.
Jakubec probably had mixed feelings about Noesen's first game since Nov. 17 against Belleville, when he left the game with an injury.
Noesen came back with a vengeance Friday, scoring twice as the game's first star to lead the Whalers to a 4-1 win over Ottawa in an Ontario Hockey League game played Friday before 2,604 at Compuware Arena.
The Whalers remain in first place with a record of 14-8-3-1, good for 32 points and two points ahead of the Sarnia Sting (14-11-0-2, 30 points). Ottawa is now 7-19-0-2.
Noesen's pair gives him 16 goals on the season. Ryan Hartman (ninth) and Tom Wilson (fifth) scored one each to lead the Whalers attack
16-year-old goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic won his second straight game for the Whalers as the game’s second star in stopping 22-of-23 shots. Dante Salituro’s disputed goal in the second period (fourth of the year) was the only offense Ottawa could muster.
"Playing in front of a rookie goaltender, you always want to play good defense and we did that tonight," Noesen said.
Noesen – a first round pick of the Ottawa Senators – scored the game winning goal on a power play at 17:41 of the first period, moving in on the right wing and roofing a backhand past Ottawa goaltender Clint Windsor to give Plymouth a 2-0 lead after one period.
"I saw the defender cross over a little and go down on one knee," noesen said of his first goal. "So I did a simple little move. I know from shooting with our goalie coach (Stan Matwijiw) that every time you can handcuff the goalie and go back shortside, it's always there."
Earlier in the first period, Hartman scored his ninth goal of the season at 15:07, scoring from the left goal line on a severe angle past Windsor.
After Salituro cut the Whalers’ lead to 2-1 at 11:14 of the second period, Noesen struck again at 18:02, deflecting Gianluca Curcuruto’s shot from the point past Windsor at the right side of the Ottawa blue ice for his 16th goal of the year. Plymouth led, 3-1, after forty minutes.
"'Chinner's' (Curcuruto) got an incredible shot," Noesen said of his second goal. "I got in front of the net and Chinner got it through and it hit my stick and went five-hole."
The Whalers wore down the 67’s in the third period, outshooting Ottawa 20-7, and scoring the only goal of period on Wilson’s empty netter and fifth goal of the year at 18:19. Plymouth coaches Mike Vellucci and Joe Stefan rotated four lines and six defensemen for the entire sixty minutes.
Plymouth outshot Ottawa, 48-23, in the game. The 67's were playing without captain Sean Monahan (suspension) and in the game lost defensemen Mike Vlajkov and Taylor Davis to injury.
Noesen's two goals in the game gives him 90 in his Plymouth career. He's currently 11th on the Whalers all-time list, one ahead of Stephen Weiss (89) and three behind John Vigilante (93).
The Whalers remain home Saturday night, hosting Kitchener at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena (6:45 p.m., 88.1 FM WSDP).
The game is the Plymouth’s annual Teddy Bear Toss night.
Find out more about Saturday’s game here.