Whitely casting huge shadow

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Everyone would love to have a moment in the sun.

For mammoth Plymouth Whalers defenceman Steve Whitely, beating the London Knights in the OHL's Western Conference final would give him a chance to earn bragging rights, for once, as one of Petrolia's successful hockey-playing sons.

Growing up and playing in the same community where London GM Mark Hunter and head coach Dale Hunter made their mark as young hockey players, the significance of beating the Knights isn't lost on the 19-year-old.

"Being where I'm from, you hear a lot about the Hunters all the time," Whitely said. "It's always nice to win. It would be great (to reach the OHL final). Playing here, there's always a lot of family since it's only 45 minutes away."

As hockey players go, they don't come much bigger than Whitely, who's six-foot-five and 205 pounds. But for such a large lad, the former Petrolia Jet has bounced around the OHL and has been traded in each of his three seasons.

A 14th-round pick of Toronto St. Michael's in 2003, Whitely went from the Majors to Saginaw. Last year, he was moved to Belleville. He finally hit his stride when he became member of a strong, veteran defensive corp in Plymouth this year after the Bulls dealt him three months ago.

"There were times I thought London would be a good place to play, but it really has worked out for me well here -- I have nothing to complaint about," Whitely said. "I think a big thing for me was having great defence coaches wherever I went. Todd Watson has really helped me here in Plymouth, Ian Herbers in Saginaw and Jake Grimes (in Belleville)."

Often forced to defend London's top players, Whitely, who had two assists in a Game 2 win and has kept above level in the plus-minus department all playoffs, has done his job without a rash of penalties. It's a chore these days to slow down speedy skaters without spending some time in the sin bin.

"You have to be quick because you can't hook or hold any more," he said. "You have to make sure you have good position. One of the good things about playing on this team is that with our forwards, it makes it easier on us because they're big and they control the puck."

Whitely isn't without his scars this series. He has a nasty gash under his eye suffered during the Game 4 loss Tuesday at Plymouth and was slashed by Jordan Shine near the end of Game 1 at the John Labatt Centre. Shine has sat out since and the league has yet to determine a length of suspension.

"It caught me in the pants so I was fortunate because it was pretty vicious slash and I felt I had to do something about it," said Whitely, who traded punches with Shine.

So far, Whitely has done it all this series. The Whalers, the Knights -- and Petrolia -- know it.


Videos

Photos