The Plymouth Whalers iced a short roster on Friday against the Owen Sound Attack at Compuware Arena.
Even so, there was no lack of heart, grit or effort.
Gianluca Curcuruto’s second power play goal of the game with 13 seconds left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie and the Whalers defeated the Owen Sound Attack, 4-3, in an Ontario Hockey League game played Friday before 2,804 at Compuware Arena.
The Whalers have won four out of their last five games and improve to 18-12-5-3, good 44 points and sole possession of second place in the OHL’s West Division. Plymouth is three points behind Sarnia (22-13-0-3, 47 points), who defeated Windsor, 8-5, on Friday.
Beside Curcuruto’s pair (second and third of the season), Plymouth received goals from Matt Mistele (17th) and Cody Payne (10th).
Plymouth continues to play without Rickard Rakell (Sweden, World Junior Championships), Ryan Hartman (United States, World Junior Championships), Stena Noesen (suspension, back Jan. 11) and injured Whalers Zach Bratina and Curtis Crombeen. In addition, defenseman Austin Levi sat as Plymouth's fourth overage. As a result, the Whalers played with nine forwards and seven defenseman, two players under the 18-man limit.
Plymouth built a 3-0 lead after two periods, but Owen Sound rallied to tie the game at 3-3 with three goals in the third period in a span of 2:04. Kyle Hope scored twice (eighth and ninth of the year) and Gemel Smith tied the game with his 16th of the year.
The Whalers played with energy in the first period, outshooting Owen Sound, 14-7. Curcuruto gave Plymouth a 1-0 lead on a power play at 1:02 of the period when his shot from the point was mishandled outside the Owen Sound crease and deflected off an Attack defender. Mistele scored at 10:31 when Owen Sound goaltender Brandon Hope (Canton) allowed a rebound off Tom Wilson's shot and Mistele scored on a shot from the left circle.
Although Owen Sound outshot Plymouth, 10-4, in the second period, Whaler defenders killed off three Owen Sound power plays in the frame and rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic played well.
Payne scored the only goal of the second period at 15:15, nine seconds after serving an interference penalty. The puck was shot into Owen Sound territory and Hope skated to the hashmarks in an attempt to play the puck away. Payne intercepted and scored from the left circle.
Owen Sound - with 25 wins on the season - didn't quit and turned the game around in the third period with three goals in a span of 2:04.
Attack veteran Cameron Brace (24 goals) was shooting wide and off the net all night, so he turned into a playmaker in the third period, setting up Hope in the Plymouth slot at 10:39 and 11:50. Then Smith tied the game at 3-3 with a shot from the left circle at 12:43.
The game was tied at 3-3 into the final minute of play when Attack center Daniel Catenacci was whistled off for high sticking at 19:03. Plymouth scored at 19:26 on Tom Wilson’s re-direct in front of the Owen Sound net, but referees Joe Celestin and Ben Wilson waved off the goal, ruling the Owen Sound net was off its moorings.
Given a second chance, the Whalers made no mistake. Alex Aleardi worked out of the left wing boards in Attack territory and found Curcuruto at the right point, who scored on a rising shot.
Owen Sound head coach Greg Ireland called a timeout with 12.9 seconds left, but the Attack could get no closer.
Owen Sound outshot Plymouth, 29-26.
Plymouth remains home on Saturday, hosting Guelph at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena (7 p.m. on Comcast 900).