SAGINAW - First star Sebastian Uvira scored two goals and added an assist, while second star Vincent Trocheck scored twice as the Plymouth Whalers led from start to finish in a 5-1 victory over the Saginaw Spirit on Wednesday evening before 2,766 at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.
AUDIO - Sebastian Uvira interview.
Matt Mistele scored the other goal for the Whalers, who won their third straight game to improve to 29-16-5-4, good for 67 points and three points ahead of second place Sault Ste. Marie (30-21-2-2, 64 points), who hammered Sarnia, 8-0, on Wednesday at Essar Centre.
Saginaw is 26-22-3-3, with 58 points and fourth in the West Division.
While the Whalers scored five goals, Plymouth's stifling team defense dominated the game. The Whalers limited Saginaw to just five shots in each of the first two periods and 22 shots overall. In fact, Nick Moutrey took Saginaw's first shot in the game at the 8:18 mark of the first period and it wasn't even counted as a shot, because his attempt rang off the outside of the post.
In the second period, Saginaw's first shot came at 9:35.
Plymouth won most of the battles for pucks all over the ice and cleared the puck out their own end efficiently without much trouble. Tonight's effort was far different from the 8-7 Plymouth loss suffered at Dow Event Center on Nov. 14 and the 6-5 loss on Jan. 9.
The Whalers have won 29 games this season and in every victory, Plymouth has allowed the opposition just one, two, or three goals.
While Uvira was named the first star, Trocheck the second and Tom Wilson the game's third star, everyone who wore a Whalers jersey had a positive effect in the game. Defensemen Austin Levi was +4 and Alex Peters was +3 and the forward line of Zach Lorentz, Uvira and Mistele were all +3 in the game.
Plymouth coaches Mike Vellucci and Joe Stefan rolled four forward lines and six defensemen effectively. Matt Mahalak stopped 21-of-22 shots in goal for the Whalers to raise his won-loss record to 20-11-4-3.
The Vince Trocheck-Ryan Hartman-Tom Wilson line continued its hot play and staked the Whalers to a 2-0 lead after one period. Hartman and Wilson kept the play alive for an extended period in the Saginaw zone and Trocheck followed the play to score through traffic on the left side of the Saginaw goal at 11:49 to give the Whalers a 1-0 lead.
Trocheck scored his 40th of the year (and 15th in 15 games with Plymouth) at 17:19 in similar fashion, as all three linemates touched the puck after a Saginaw turnover at the Spirit blue line. Hartman got the shot and Trocheck banged home the rebound.
Plymouth outshot Saginaw, 17-5, in the first period.
The Whalers kept rolling in the second period with the Lorentz-Mistele-Uvira combination doing the scoring. Mistele scored his 26th ovef the season (and team-leading seventh against Saginaw) at 8:18 to give Plymouth a 3-0 lead, banging home a rebound after Saginaw goaltender Jake Paterson made the first stop on Uvira's shot from the slot.
Then Uvira scored to give Plymouth a 4-0 lead at 12:24, when he was allowed to skate - unchecked - out of the right corner to the right circle and potted home a hard shot from the right dot.
Plymouth outshot Saginaw, 14-5 in the second period.
The Spirit showed some push at the start of the third period and Garret Ross scored the lone Saginaw goal, on a rebound at 4:07, for his 34th goal of the year. But Uvira replied immediately at 5:29 with a fine individual effort, taking the puck from a Saginaw defender in neutral territory, skating in on Paterson and scoring on a backhand to give Plymouth a 5-1 lead.
With two goals and an assist against Saginaw, Uvira equaled his best offensive game in his OHL career. He scored two goals and an assist on Jan. 21, 2012 for Oshawa against Kingston.
Plymouth outshot Saginaw, 40-22, in the game.
ADDITONAL STORY - Cory Butzin, Saginaw News/MLive.com.
The Whalers remain on the road Friday in Kitchener against the Rangers (7:15 p.m., 88.1 FM WSDP) before returning home Saturday to host Guelph at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena (6:45 p.m. 88.1FM WSDP, 7 p.m. Comcast 900).