Marty Abrams put his defensive troops through a tough workout and the results paid huge dividends on Sunday.
The Soo Greyhounds defense smothered the Plymouth offensive attack and limited the Whalers to few quality scoring chances and only 19 shots in a 4-2 Ontario Hockey League win at Memorial Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
Combined with the defensive effort, the Greyhounds used a tenacious forecheck which created several turnovers and won several battles to the loose puck.
Abrams, the Greyhounds head coach and assistant general manager, put the Greyhounds defense through a tough workout at practise on Saturday and the results were evident.
"I can't say enough about that group of defenseman today because we worked them pretty hard (Saturday) in practise about closing the gap, standing them up and making the simple play. It was an outstanding performance by the entire group," said Abrams.
With the win, the Greyhounds, which finished the three-game homestand with five of a possible six points, move into sole possession of first place in the OHL's west division with a 10-6-1-1 record, two points ahead of the Whalers, which fall to 8-5-4.
The Greyhounds controlled the play from the drop of the puck and despite the effort, the Hounds found themselves down 2-0 early in the second period as John Vigilante and Ryan Ramsay scored the Whalers goals while the teams were playing four-on-four.
Ramsay's goal sucked some life out of the 2,737 fans in attendance but Jeff Doyle changed the momentum just minutes later as the Greyhounds power play clicked when Doyle gobbled up a juicy rebound and fired the puck into an open net.
Two minutes later, Jeff Carter tied the game at 2-2 as the Hounds' captain took advantage of a rebound from Martin Tuma's point shot and beat Plymouth goaltender Jeff Weber.
Weber, who played for the Greyhounds part of last season, was solid in net and stopped 39 of the 43 shots he faced.
Scott Dobben continued his outstanding play and scored the game winner late in the second period while short handed. Dobben collected a loose puck outside the Plymouth blueline, skated in on a breakaway and fired a shot which trickled through Weber and across the goal line to put the Hounds up 3-2.
Tyler Kennedy added an insurance goal for the Greyhounds in the third period. Tuma recorded two assists in the game.
"This was another confidence builder for us because we know Plymouth is a strong team and they had a day off yesterday and were well rested. We had some great mileage out of our top players in Kennedy, Carter and Dobben and they carried the ball for us tonight," said Abrams.
"We've been finding ways to win lately and today was another case. Much like Friday, we fell behind early and came back. I though our first period tonight was as good a period that we have played all year and didn't have too much to show for it and I was concerned about it but we bounced back."
Dobben, who was named the game's first star, was particularly effective his with speed and hustle and has been one of the team's top players on a nightly basis this season.
"I really hope that someone steps up and takes notice at the NHL level especially in Ottawa because (Dobben) is doing everything out there," said Abrams.
Defenseman Mike Looby made his return to Greyhounds lineup on Sunday while newly acquired Ryan Connolly dropped the gloves for the second straight game in a third period battle with the Whalers' Craig Cescon.
The Greyhounds will now head out for another tough three-game road trip beginning Thursday night in Oshawa at 7 p.m.. The Hounds continue on to Kingston for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Friday before meeting Mississauga on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Following the trip, the Hounds will enjoy a three-game homestand beginning Wednesday, November 12 against Sarnia. Guelph will visit on November 14 and Mississauga will come to town on November 15.
In other OHL action on Sunday, Ryan Callahan scored three goals as the Guelph Storm hammered the Kingston Frontenacs 8-2. Adam Henrich and Wojtek Wolski scored two goals each to lead Brampton past Kitchener 4-3 while Tyler Haskin's two goals led Toronto past Ottawa 6-3.