Plymouth Whaler fans have seen Rickard Rakell and Stefan Noesen play together for the better part of three seasons.
When Rakell (a first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks) and Noesen (a first round pick of the Ottawa Senators) get rolling, that usually means success for the Whalers.
After sitting out much of the third period last Saturday in the Whalers' 7-5 loss to Sarnia, Rakell and Noesen joins forces to help beat Saginaw.
Rakell - as the game's first star and with Anaheim scouts watching - scored a goal with two assists while second star Noesen scored twice to lead the Whalers to a 4-1 win over the Spirit in an Ontario Hockey League game played Tuesday afternoon at Compuware Arena.
Matt Mistele scored the other goal for the Whalers, who moved into a first place tie with Sarnia in the OHL’s West Division with a record of 9-5-2-1.
Garret Ross scored the only goal for Saginaw, now 6-10-2-0.
Rakell and Noesen looked to play better today and did.
"We knew what we wanted to do when the game started," Rakell said after the game. "After a weak performance last game, it was nice to get back on track. We wanted to help the team. We knew we haven't been playing as well as we can. But we said after the game it was nice to find each other again. We're both very positive and conifidentand things are going to get better."
Rakell and Noesen teamed up for the first goal of the game at 7:50 of the first period, coming on a re-direct by Noesen from the right circle for his ninth goal of the year after Rakell won a face off in the Saginaw zone and defenseman Colin MacDonald took the shot.
Rakell beat one of the best face-off in the OHL in Saginaw's Vince Trocheck to set up the goal.
"I've struggled with him on the draws," Rakell admitted. "I was lucky to win that one. He's so strong on the puck. He always knows what to do and it seems like he knows what I want to do. It was good to get that first goal.”
Plymouth's lead lasted just 16 seconds as Ross scored on a backhand from the lower rim of the right circle at 8:06.
But Rakell scored at 16:03 of the first period, taking Simon Karlsson's pass and snapping a shot from the right circle for the game-winner past Saginaw goaltender Jake Paterson.
The second period was scoreless but not uneventful and Paterson and Plymouth goaltender Matt Mahalak matched each other save for save. Plymouth outshot Saginaw in the period, 18-13.
Plymouth held the lead into the third period and pulled away on third-period goals by Mistele at 7:30 and Noesen on a power play at 10:14.
Mistele capped off good Plymouth pressure in the Saginaw zone, scoring on a rebound off Gianluca Curcuruto's shot for his fourth goal of the year. Noesen scored on a nice feed from Rakell, who skated into the Sagianw zone on the left wing and found Noesen breaking to the net.
In all, Mahalak was solid in stopping 36-of-37 shots for the Whalers to improve his overall record to 8-3-2-1.
The Whalers outshot Saginaw, 39-37.
Plymouth's penalty killers stopped all six Saginaw power plays and to move back to the top of the OHL on the PK with a 88.1 percent success ratio (74-for-84).
Plymouth remains at home the rest of the week, hosting Windsor on Friday and London on Saturday at Compuware Arena. Both games start at 7:05 p.m.